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''Eat  your  broccoli,  dear." 

"/  say  it's  spinach — and  I  say  to  hell  with  it." 

—  from  a  cartoon  in  the  New  Yorker 

Fashion  Is  Spinach 


ELIZABETH  HAWES  is  one  of  the  best-known  and 
most  successful  designers  of  smart  women's 
clothes  in  America,  and  the  undisputed  leader  of 
the  small  group  of  American  designers  who  have 
challenged  the  style  supremacy  of  Paris. 

Miss  Hawes'  story  is  an  adventure  into  every 
phase  of  the  women's  clothing  industry,  the  sec- 
ond largest  business  in  the  United  States.  Her 
early  struggles  for  recognition  and  her  final  lead- 
ership in  helping  to  shift  the  center  of  the  fashion 
industry  from  Paris  to  New  York  make  a  story 
that  will  appeal  not  only  to  the  initiate,  but  to 
thousands  besides — and  to  their  husbands. 


"Consumers  attention!  Elizabeth  Hawes  tells  us  that  'the 
deformed  thief  Fashion'  steals  the  real  value  out  of  what 
we  buy.  She  suggests  a  remedy.  She  makes  a  plea  for 
functional  and  durable  merchandise.  Consumers  want 
that  too. 

"Although  Fashion  Is  Spinach  deals  exclusively  with 
the  clothing  industry  it  has  a  wider  application." 

President,  League  of  Women  Shoppers 

"There  are  few  enough  books  written  by  people  who 
know  what  they  are  talking  about.  And  few  enough  of 
those  few  which  either  make  sense  or,  making  sense, 
have  the  wit  to  hold  the  reader's  interest  through  even 
a  short  summer  evening.  But  Hawes'  book  on  fashion  is 
one.  It  is  fun  to  read,  exciting  to  think  about.  .  .  .  She  is 
a  fiery,  human  little  David  taking  a  shot  at  that  fantastic 
Goliath  which  is  the  fashion  world  —  and  plunking  it 
right  in  its  dreamy  eye." 

—  RALPH  INCERSOLL,  publisher,  TIME 

"All  the  dirt  on  female  fashions  which  nobody  ought  to 
know  and  everybody  is  actually  panting  for.  No  man  will 
sleep  well  of  nights  for  a  week  after  reading  the  inside 

continued  on  back  flap 

From  the  collection  of  the 

7    n 

o  PreTinger 

i     a 


San  Francisco,  California 

ijreunion   <2xi   QJpinacn 



lu   Slizaiet/i 






"Eat  your  broccoli,  dear." 

7  say  it's  spinach — and  I  say  to  hell 

with  it." 

Illustration  by  courtety  of  Carl  Rote  &  The  New  Yorker 

I  acknowledge  with  gratitude  the  help 
Of  Maria  Leiper  who  asked  for  another  book — 
Of  Harriette  McLain  who  enabled  Random  House  to  print  this  book — 
Of  Kenneth  White  who  believes  in  split  infinitives — 
All  of  whom  made  it  possible  for  me  to  dedicate  Fashion  Is  Spinach 



the  great  creator  of  style  in  France 

AND    TO 


the  world  over 



"All  beautiful  clothes  are  made  in  the  houses  of  the  French 
couturieres  and  all  women  want  them" 

Chapter  1  The  Deformed  Thief,  Fashion  3 

2  "Is  God  French?"     ,  13 

3  I  Was  Nurtured  in  It  25 

4  Copying,  a  Fancy  Name  35 

5  The  Photographic  Eye  49 

6  NEWS  .  .  .  News  .  .  .  news  65 

7  The  Bastard  Art  of  Styling  79 


Chapter  8     Cutting,  Pinning  and  Draping  95 

9    It  Creaks  105 


"All  American  women  can  have  beautiful  clothes." 

Chapter  10    The  Great  American  Boast  119 

11  Couturiere,  Pocket  Edition  133 

12  Designers  Are  Not  Miracle  Makers  145 

13  "She's  Barred  from  France"  155 

14  Robots,  Maybe  177 

15  Up  for  Promotion  189 

16  Bigger  Than  U.  S.  Steel  203 

17  Fords,  Not  Lincolns  215 

18  I  Buy  an  Ivory  Tower  225 

19  Notatal  Silk  245 

20  Blood  Money  and  No  Money  263 

21  A  Lucky  Strike  277 

22  Men  Might  Like  Skirts  291 

23  Our  Competitive  System  313 

24  I  Say  It's  Spinach  331 



"All  beautiful  clothes  are  made 

in  the  houses  of  the  French  Couturieres 

and  all  women  want  them" 

<_y  ne 

c_x  nief, 

THERE  are  only  two  kinds  of  women  in  the  world  of 
clothing.  One  buys  her  clothes  made-to-order,  the  other 
buys  her  clothes  ready-made. 

The  made-to-order  lady  frequents  Molyneux,  Lanvin, 
Paquin,  Chanel,  in  Paris.  In  New  York  she  is  deposited  by 


her  chauffeur  "on  the  Plaza,"  at  the  door  of  Bergdorf  Good- 
man, or  she  threads  through  the  traffic  of  Forty-ninth  Street  to 
Hattie  Carnegie,  less  advantageously  placed  geographically 
but  equally  important  where  fashion  is  concerned.  She  may 
do  her  shopping  out  of  the  traffic,  in  a  gray  house  on  Sixty- 
seventh  Street,  Hawes,  Inc.,  or  just  hit  the  edge  of  the  mob  at 
the  Savoy-Plaza  where  Valentina  holds  sway. 

In  any  case,  the  made-to-order  lady  can  shop  and  dress 
to  her  entire  satisfaction.  Thousands  of  skilled  craftsmen 
and  women  are  ready  to  sew  up  her  clothes.  Tens  of  design- 
ers in  London  and  Paris  and  New  York  and  Los  Angeles  will 
work  out  her  special  sketches.  Hundreds  of  salespeople  are 
on  tap  at  all  hours  of  the  day  to  watch  over  her  fittings,  ad- 
vise her  what  not  to  buy,  send  shoppers  to  find  that  special 
color  and  material  which  really  should  be  worn  in  her  dining 

She  pays,  yes.  But  it's  worth  it  a  thousand  times.  Her 
clothes  are  her  own  and  correspond  to  her  life  as  she  under- 
stands it.  She  may  spend  hours  fitting  them,  but  in  the  end 
they  are  right. 

Meanwhile,  the  ready-made  lady  shops.  She  too  may 
want  a  special  color  to  wear  in  her  dining  room.  She  may 
find  that  color  after  two  weeks  of  hunting,  or  she  may  never 
find  it,  since  very  possibly  "we  are  not  using  it  this  season." 
She  may  find  a  really  warm  and  sturdy  winter  coat  which 
will  last  her  for  the  next  six  years  and  only  cost  $35 — or 
she  may  discover  that  the  coat  she  bought  last  year  is  not  in 
fashion  this  year,  that  the  material  was,  after  all,  not  all 

Millions  and  millions  of  women  go  shopping  year  after 
year.  They  are  tall  and  short,  fat  and  thin,  gay  and  de- 
pressed. They  may  clothe  their  bodies  for  the  simple  pur- 
pose of  keeping  warm  or  not  going  naked.  They  may  choose 


their  wardrobes  with  care  for  wintering  in  Palm  Beach,  or 
going  to  the  races  in  Ascot.  Their  first  necessary  choice  is, 
can  they  pay  enough  to  get  exactly  what  they  want  or  are  they 
at  the  mercy  of  mass  production.  Can  they  buy  style — or 
must  they  buy  fashion? 

Lanvin  and  Chanel,  Hawes  and  Valentina,  are  funda- 
mentally occupied  with  selling  style.  The  manufacturer  and 
the  department  store  are  primarily  occupied  with  selling 

I  don't  know  when  the  word  fashion  came  into  being,  but 
it  was  an  evil  day.  For  thousands  of  years  people  got  along 
with  something  called  style  and  maybe,  in  another  thousand, 
we'll  go  back  to  it. 

Style  is  that  thing  which,  being  looked  back  upon  after 
a  century,  gives  you  the  fundamental  feeling  of  a  certain 
period  in  history.  Style  in  Greece  in  2000  B.C.  was  delicate 
outdoor  architecture  and  the  clothes  which  went  with  it. 
Style  in  the  Renaissance  was  an  elaborately  carved  stone 
cathedral  and  rich  velvet,  gold  trimmed  robes.  Style  doesn't 
change  every  month  or  every  year.  It  only  changes  as  often 
as  there  is  a  real  change  in  the  point  of  view  and  lives  of  the 
people  for  whom  it  is  produced. 

Style  in  1937  may  give  you  a  functional  house  and 
comfortable  clothes  to  wear  in  it.  Style  doesn't  give  a  whoop 
whether  your  comfortable  clothes  are  red  or  yellow  or  blue, 
or  whether  your  bag  matches  your  shoes.  Style  gives  you 
shorts  for  tennis  because  they  are  practical.  Style  takes  away 
the  wasp-waisted  corset  when  women  get  free  and  active. 

If  you  are  in  a  position  to  deal  with  a  shop  which  makes 
your  clothes  specially  for  you,  style  is  what  you  can  have, 
the  right  clothes  for  your  life  in  your  epoch,  uncompromis- 
ingly, at  once. 

On  top  of  style  there  has  arisen  a  strange  and  wonderful 

creature  called  fashion.  He  got  started  at  least  as  far  back 
as  the  seventeenth  century  when  a  few  smart  people  recog- 
nized him  for  what  he  was  and  is.  "See'st  thou  not,  I  say, 
what  a  deformed  thief  this  fashion  is?"  Mr.  Shakespeare 
demanded  in  Much  Ado  About  Nothing.  But  nobody  paid 
any  attention. 

Now  we  have  the  advertising  agency  and  the  manufac- 
turer, the  department  store  and  the  fashion  writer  all  here 
to  tell  us  that  the  past,  present,  and  future  of  clothing  de- 
pends on  fashion,  ceaselessly  changing. 

Manufacturing  clothes  is  the  second  largest  business  in 
the  United  States.  Not  one-half  of  one  percent  of  the  popu- 
lation can  have  its  clothing  made  to  order — or  wants  to  for 
that  matter. 

This  means  that  a  large  portion  of  $2,656,242,000 
changes  hands  annually  under  the  eye  of  that  thief,  fashion, 
who  becomes  more  and  more  deformed  with  practice. 
Fashion  is  a  parasite  on  style.  Without  style,  he  wouldn't 
exist,  but  what  he  does  to  it  is  nobody's  business. 

Fashion  is  that  horrid  little  man  with  an  evil  eye  who 
tells  you  that  your  last  winter's  coat  may  be  in  perfect  physi- 
cal condition,  but  you  can't  wear  it.  You  can't  wear  it  because 
it  has  a  belt  and  this  year  "we  are  not  showing  belts." 

Fashion  gets  up  those  perfectly  ghastly  ideas,  such  as  ac- 
cessories should  match,  and  proceeds  to  give  you  shoes, 
gloves,  bag,  and  hat  all  in  the  same  hideous  shade  of  kelly 
green  which  he  insists  is  chic  this  season  whether  it  turns  you 
yellow  or  not.  Fashion  is  apt  to  insist  one  year  that  you  are 
nobody  if  you  wear  flat  heels,  and  then  turn  right  around 
and  throw  thousands  of  them  in  your  face. 

Fashion  persuades  millions  of  women  that  comfort  and 
good  lines  are  not  all  they  should  ask  in  clothes.  Fashion 
swings  the  female  population  this  way  and  that  through  the 


magic  expression  that  "they"  are  wearing  such  and  such  this 
season  and  you  must  do  likewise  or  be  ostracized. 

Fashion  in  America  says  that  if  Lady  Abbington  is  wear- 
ing lace  to  the  races,  you  should  wear  it  to  work  in  Macy's 
basement  because  you  are  afterwards  going  on  to  Coney 
Island.  If  "they"  are  wearing  their  hair  cut  close  to  their 
heads  and  waved  over  one  eye,  then  you  must,  too.  If  you 
can't  go  to  the  hairdresser  every  day,  that's  just  too  bad. 

One  of  the  most  fascinating  things  about  the  world  of 
fashion  is  that  practically  no  one  knows  who  inhabits  it  or 
why  it  exists.  There  are  a  few  people  who  know  how  it  works, 
but  they  won't  tell.  So  it  just  goes  on,  getting  in  deeper  and 
deeper,  until  something  like  a  war  or  depression  slows  it  up 
from  time  to  time.  But  once  the  war  or  the  depression  lets  up, 
off  again  goes  fashion  on  its  mad  way. 

Some  people  seem  to  like  it.  There  are  a  good  many 
people  who  don't,  but  just  accept  it  as  inevitable,  throwing 
away  perfectly  good  old  clothes  and  buying  new  ones  every 
year.  Now  and  then  the  public  gets  angry  and  writes  letters 
to  the  press  saying  they  simply  won't  wear  long  skirts,  or 
short  ones,  as  the  case  may  be,  but  "they"  pay  very  little 
attention.  "They"  just  go  ahead  and  change  the  fashion 
again  and  say  you  can't  have  blue  or  you  must  have  brown. 

"They"  decide  everything.  "They"  know  whether  it  is 
to  be  pink  or  green  this  fall,  whether  it's  to  be  short  skirts, 
whether  you  can  wear  mink.  For  years  everyone  who  thinks 
has  gone  around  at  one  time  or  another  trying  to  find  out  in 
a  desultory  sort  of  way  who  "they"  are. 

If  they  have  any  sense  of  humor,  they  must  have  a  great 
deal  of  fun.  Fancy  how  they  must  have  laughed  when  they 
once  got  the  last  New  York  shop  girl  into  afternoon  clothes 
in  the  morning.  One  of  their  best  stunts  was  putting  all  the 


ladies  into  Eugenie  hats  one  September,  and  then  whipping 
them  off  when  all  those  old  feathers  had  been  sold. 

In  the  past  they  were  able  to  decree  that  all  Fifth  Avenue 
was  to  be  purple  in  a  given  week.  If  you  didn't  get  a  purple 
dress  in  those  days,  you  were  jailed.  They  got  by  so  well 
with  the  color  changes  that  a  revulsion  occurred  in  the  pub- 
lic mind,  and  for  a  number  of  years  they  haven't  really  suc- 
ceeded in  putting  across  a  solid  wave  of  a  single  color. 

They  take  inordinate  pleasure  in  telling  you  your  acces- 
sories must  match  and  then  putting  out  seven  different  shades 
of  brown  so  you  can  spend  two  weeks  finding  the  brown  shoe 
that  happens  to  go  with  your  brown  coat.  They  also  love  to 
take  up  "influences."  Sometimes  it's  Chinese,  other  times 
Mexican.  The  game  those  seasons  is  to  try  and  find  the  in- 
fluence in  anything  but  print. 

Then,  they  improve  things.  The  sight  of  a  simple  towel- 
ing bathrobe  infuriates  them.  They  put  navy  blue  stars  on  it 
at  once.  Just  as  you  resign  yourself  to  the  navy  blue  stars, 
they  throw  away  that  pattern  and  make  all  the  toweling  bath- 
robes with  puffed  sleeves. 

The  same  group  took  away  all  those  lovely  white  bath- 
rooms and  made  them  lavender,  and  have  got  out  streamline 
gas  stoves.  They  no  sooner  taught  everyone  to  go  out  in  low 
shoes  and  silk  stockings  in  winter  than  they  decided  to  try 
out  high  shoes  again. 

There  have  been  rumors  about  that  "they"  are  people 
like  Greta  Garbo,  and  Mrs.  Harrison  Williams,  exotic  the- 
atrical stars  and  rich  society  ladies.  But  nobody  can  prove  it. 
Greta  Garbo  is  reported  to  wear  whatever  her  designer 
chooses  to  put  on  her  and  it  is  exceedingly  doubtful  that  she 
really  expected  everyone  to  wear  sequin  day  dresses  a  la 
Mata  Hari. 

Mrs.  Harrison  Williams  always  appears  to  be  having  a 


very  good  time  in  public  and  to  be  largely  taken  up  with 
talking  to  her  dinner  partner.  Possibly  she  lies  awake  nights 
worrying  whether  to  turn  all  the  world  into  a  chiffon  evening 
dress — or  thinking  up  the  newest  color  for  next  spring. 

Are  "they"  really  the  French  designers?  At  a  large  meet- 
ing of  New  York  business  women  in  fashion,  Lucien  Lelong 
was  answering  questions.  "Monsieur Lelong,"  a  lady  begged, 
"please  tell  us  what  colors  will  be  smart  next  spring?"  Mon- 
sieur Lelong  politely  replied,  "I  have  a  hundred  shades  of 
blue,  a  hundred  shades  of  red,  and  so  on.  When  I  design  a 
new  collection,  I  just  put  my  hand  on  the  samples  and  take 
anyone  that  suits  my  fancy  that  day." 

Patou,  when  he  was  alive  and  successful  around  1932, 
got  out  a  whole  collection  of  long-waisted  dresses.  Nobody 
else  followed  suit.  Nobody  bought  them.  He  had  to  make  an- 
other collection  with  natural  waists. 

There  are  the  dress  manufacturers  on  our  Seventh  Ave- 
nue in  New  York.  Some  say  they  are  "they."  Some  say  those 
manufacturers  just  brutally  decide  they  will  put  the  waist- 
lines up  or  down  as  suits  their  fancy.  How  did  it  happen  then, 
in  1930,  that  the  manufacturers  on  Seventh  Avenue  made  a 
whole  set  of  clothes  with  short  skirts  and  suddenly  found  the 
skirts  had  got  long  while  they  weren't  looking? 

So,  a  king  gets  crowned  in  England  and  everything  must 
have  ermine  trimming.  But  you  can't  find  any  ermine  trim- 
ming in  America  that  spring.  I  go  to  buy  some  oxfords  with 
cuban  heels — and  find  that  they  only  come  with  one-inch 
heels.  In  1929  leather-heeled  oxfords  were  too  heavy  for  any 
American  woman  to  wear.  That's  what  Delman's  chic  shoe 
shop  said.  By  1934,  leather-heeled  oxfords  were  all  over  the 
streets  of  New  York. 

I  want  a  navy  blue  dress  in  the  fall.  It  is  only  worn  in  the 
spring,  the  salesgirl  says.  I  want  a  coat  with  no  fur  trimming 


in  the  winter  of  1930.  All  winter  coats  have  fur  trimming,  the 
salesgirl  says. 

I  want  a  brown  turtle-necked  sweater.  I  start  at  Macy's 
and  slowly  wend  my  way  through  Altman's  and  Best's  and 
Lord  and  Taylor's  and  Saks'  and  Bonwit's.  Finally  I  buy  a 
white  one  at  Fortnum  and  Mason  and  send  it  to  be  dyed.  They 
say  it  won't  dye,  but  it  does. 

I  want  a  plain  knit  bathing  suit  with  a  skirt.  They're  all 
fancy  knits  this  year  and  they  have  no  skirts.  I  want  a  bras- 
siere and  separate  pants  bathing  suit.  We  don't  have  them 
any  more.  That  was  last  year. 

I  want  that  kind  of  a  bathing  suit  and  I'm  going  right  up 
and  get  one  made  to  order  by  Valentina.  I  don't  care  if  it 
does  cost  me  $200.  But  if  I  haven't  got  the  $200,  must  I  take  a 
printed  challis  bathing  suit  this  year  and  like  it?  Just  because 
they're  wearing  them  on  the  Lido,  what's  that  to  me? 

Why  don't  they  ask  me,  a  ready-made  lady,  what  I  want? 
Maybe  they'd  find  out,  to  their  horror,  that  all  I  want  is  a 
nice  deep-crowned  riding  hat  like  the  one  I  had  ten  years 
ago.  Why  don't  they  find  out  how  much  money  I  have  to  spend 
and  what  I  really  want  to  buy  for  it?  Who  got  up  this  idea 
that  just  because  one  tenth  of  one  percent  of  the  population 
needs  a  certain  kind  of  clothes,  I  want  the  same  thing?  Who 
decided  that  just  because  I  was  only  paying  $10.75  for  my 
dress  I  wanted  a  bow  and  a  diamond  clip  added  to  the  neck? 

Fashion,  my  girl — he  decided.  He  doesn't  deal  directly 
with  you.  He  swipes  ideas  from  style,  embroiders  them  to 
cover  up  the  fact  that  he  left  out  half  the  material  and  only 
paid  75  cents  a  yard  for  the  rest.  He  hires  press  agents  and 
advertising  men  to  assure  you  that  the  bright  cellophane 
wrapper  is  what  counts.  Fashion  gets  $50,000  a  year  for  con- 
vincing you.  His  wife  gets  her  clothes  at  Hattie  Carnegie's,  so 
why  should  he  worry. 


I,  Elizabeth  Hawes,  have  sold,  stolen,  and  designed 
clothes  in  Paris.  I  have  reported  on  Paris  fashions  for  news- 
papers and  magazines  and  department  stores.  I've  worked 
with  American  buyers  in  Europe. 

In  America,  I  have  built  up  my  ivory  tower  on  Sixty- 
seventh  Street  in  New  York.  There  I  enjoy  the  privilege  of 
making  beautiful  and  expensive  clothes  to  order  for  those 
who  can  afford  my  wares.  I  ran  the  show  myself  from  the 
business  angle  for  its  first  four  years.  I  have  designed,  sold, 
and  publicized  my  own  clothes  for  nine  years. 

At  the  same  time,  in  New  York,  I  designed  one  year  for  a 
cheap  wholesale  dress  house.  I've  designed  bags,  gloves, 
sweaters,  hats,  furs,  and  fabrics  for  manufacturers.  I've 
worked  on  promotions  of  those  articles  with  advertising 
agencies  and  department  stores. 

During  the  course  of  all  this,  I've  become  convinced  that 
ninety-five  percent  of  the  business  of  fashion  is  a  useless 
waste  of  time  and  energy  as  far  as  the  public  is  concerned. 
It  serves  only  to  ball  up  the  ready-made  customers  and  make 
their  lives  miserable.  The  only  useful  purpose  that  changes 
in  fashion  can  possibly  have  is  to  give  a  little  additional 
gaiety  to  life.  But  by  the  time  you've  taken  off  fashion's 
bright  cellophane  wrapper,  you  usually  find  not  only  that 
fashion  is  no  fun  at  all,  but  that  even  the  utility  of  your  pur- 
chase has  been  sacrificed. 

Fashion  is  so  shrouded  in  mystery,  so  far  away  and  so 
foreign,  so  complicated,  and  so  boring  when  you  understand 
its  ways,  that  it  has  become  a  complete  anachronism  in  mod- 
ern life.  One  good  laugh,  and  the  deformed  thief  would  van- 
ish into  the  past. 

All  my  laughs  are  based  entirely  on  my  own  work.  I  have 
done  no  research  on  any  of  the  aspects  of  fashion  except  what 


was  necessary  to  a  given  job.  I  simply  write  what  I  have  ex- 
perienced— and  none  of  the  characters  in  this  book  are  taken 
from  anything  but  life. 


"of,  ff,J 3% 

AMERICA  has  a  habit  of  priding  herself  on  being  a  land 
of  big  time  promotion  and  publicity.  Most  Americans 
engaged  in  it  have  never  stopped  to  consider  that  the  really 
big  press  agents  of  the  world  are  the  French.  They  have  built 
something  up  which  has  lasted  not  for  a  week  or  a  month  or 
a  season,  but  for  nearly  a  century. 


There  have  been  a  good  many  books  written  about  the 
French,  how  they  think  they  are  God,  or  "Dieu  est-il 
Frangais,"  but  the  beauty  of  the  French  clothing  business  is 
that  for  decades  nobody  ever  questioned  its  God-like  quality. 
The  build-up  has  been  so  perfect,  so  subtle  and  so  unceasing 
that  a  legend  is  still  accepted  as  reality  by  nearly  the  whole 

One  must  give  the  French  full  credit  for  keeping  their 
campaign  on  a  very  high  level.  They  cannot  be  held  respon- 
sible for  what  America  has  done  to  a  once  perfectly  good 
idea.  The  French  legend  is  a  very  simple  one.  All  really 
beautiful  clothes  are  designed  in  the  houses  of  the  French 
couturiers  and  all  women  want  those  clothes. 

Properly  speaking,  a  couturier  or  couturiere,  male  or 
female  of  the  species,  is  a  person  who  creates  clothes  for  in- 
dividual women  and  maintains  an  establishment  where  those 
designs  are  sold  directly  to  women  and  made  to  order.  All 
important  couturiers  show  at  least  two  collections  of  clothes 
a  year,  spring  and  summer  clothes  in  February,  autumn  and 
winter  clothes  in  August  or  September. 

Only  the  made-to-order  lady  goes  to  buy  in  such  houses. 
She  chooses  the  clothes  she  wants  from  a  collection  of 
seventy-five  to  two  hundred  dresses,  coats,  and  suits  of  every 
description  and  for  every  occasion.  The  designs  have  been 
worked  out  and  made  on  girls,  mannequins,  who  afterward 
show  them  to  the  customers.  The  woman  does  not  buy  a  de- 
sign made  specially  or  exclusively  for  her.  What  she  buys 
may  be  sold  to  many  other  women. 

In  some  cases,  individual  designs  are  worked  out  for  a 
certain  customer.  This  is  rare,  however,  and  usually  only 
happens  in  the  case  of  ceremonial  clothes,  weddings,  corona- 
tions, theatrical  performances. 

It  is  quite  difficult  for  Americans  who  have  never  shopped 


in  Europe  to  understand  that,  while  each  couturier  makes 
clothes  for  every  hour  of  the  day  and  night,  he  makes  only 
what  he  chooses  for  each  occasion.  Every  real  designer  has 
his  or  her  own  interpretation  of  the  style  of  the  era.  If 
Chanel  does  not  like  black  satin,  nobody  can  get  black  satin 
from  her.  If  Chanel  does  not  like  full  skirts,  nobody  can  find 
one  chez  Chanel. 

The  customer  who  wants  satin  and  full  skirts  will  go,  with 
Chanel's  blessing,  to  another  couturier  who  is  using  satin  and 
making  full  skirts.  Every  European  made-to-order  shopper 
ultimately  finds  the  couturier  who  suits  her  type  and  ideas. 
Sometimes  a  woman  may  go  one  place  for  her  coats  and  suits, 
another  for  her  evening  clothes,  but  having  finally  settled  on 
the  designer  or  designers  whose  taste  is  most  suitable,  the 
made-to-order  customer  sticks. 

In  general,  nothing  but  death  can  separate  the  made-to-. 
order  European  woman  from  her  chosen  couturier.  Her  faith 
is  based  on  the  great  tradition  to  which  the  Parisian  cou- 
turiers belong. 

The  names  of  the  French  designers  as  individuals  may 
die  out  within  a  generation,  but  there  are  always  new  ones  to 
replace  them.  So  far  the  newcomers  have  adequately  filled 
the  places  of  their  dying  predecessors.  In  their  comings  and 
their  goings,  they  continue  to  work  in  a  single  pattern.  Their 
business  is  that  of  dressmaking,  great  dressmaking,  design- 
ing in  fine  fabrics  and  sewing  fine  seams.  The  pattern  estab- 
lished by  the  French  designers  is  followed  by  all  couturiers 
the  world  over. 

All  that  is  necessary  to  be  a  French  designer  is  that  one 
work  in  France.  This  is  a  very  important  reason  for  the  suc- 
cess of  the  great  legend.  The  French  believe  in  their  souls 
that  all  dress  designers  are  French,  and  work  in  Paris.  They 


make  it  easy  to  work  in  France,  if  you  want  to  be  a  French 

If  you're  Norman  Hartnell,  and  want  to  show  clothes  in 
Paris  but  go  right  back  to  England  and  keep  on  designing 
there  afterward,  then  you  can't  find  a  place  in  Paris  to  show 
your  clothes.  You  just  can't  make  a  lease. 

If  you're  Elizabeth  Hawes  and  some  French  fabric  manu- 
facturers are  being  very  helpful  to  you,  even  practically 
keeping  you  in  business  through  a  depression,  you  will  be 
asked  by  those  manufacturers  over  and  over  again,  "Why 
do  you  insist  on  being  an  American  Designer?"  They  always 
say,  "Why  don't  you  work  in  France?  It's  so  much  easier  to 
work  there." 

It  is  much  easier  to  work  there  on  individual  clothes. 
Sometimes  you  wonder  why  you  ever  tried  to  work  any  place 
else.  Everything  is  arranged  for  couturiers  to  work  in  Paris. 
So,  among  the  French  designers  one  finds  Molyneux,  who 
is  French  to  the  French,  British  to  you.  There  is  Schiaparelli, 
a  great  French  designer,  born  Italian.  There  is  Main  Bocher, 
born  in  the  U.S.A.  And  there  are,  of  course,  designers  born 
and  bred  in  France. 

When  you  design  in  Paris,  you  know  that  everyone  un- 
derstands what  you  are  trying  to  do  and  wants  to  help.  That 
is,  they  understand  what  you're  trying  to  do  if  you  want 
to  design  beautiful  clothes  for  the  made-to-order  European 

To  begin  with,  time  is  no  object.  Wages  of  sewing  girls 
are  low  and  you  can  put  as  much  work  into  a  dress  as  you 
like.  The  price  will  still  be  within  reason.  It  may  take  a  girl 
a  hundred  hours  to  finish  a  garment.  In  1925,  she  was  paid 
about  $7.50  for  her  work. 

Even  more  important  than  the  price  of  her  labor,  the 
Parisian  midinette,  the  sewing  girl  of  the  great  tradition, 


knows  her  business.  She  has  been  trained  to  sew  beautifully 
and  carefully.  She  is  thousands  strong  in  number. 

Rent  is  fabulously  low  in  the  big  city  of  artistic  tradition. 
The  mannequins  who  show  the  clothes  depend  more  on  their 
gentlemen  friends  than  on  the  dressmakers  for  their  living. 
The  fabrics  are  wonderful  and  seductive  in  price  as  well  as 
in  design  and  color. 

The  handicraft  background  provides  handweavers  as  well 
as  handsewers.  Some  of  the  peasants  around  Lyons,  in  central 
France,  still  bend  over  their  very  old  and  rickety  handlooms 
to  turn  out  small  lengths  of  intricate  damask.  Machines  could 
do  it,  yes.  But  no  machine  can  work  out  the  first  bit  of  new 

Moreover,  there  is  no  necessity  for  having  it  done  by 
machine.  One  day  I  suggested  that  some  of  those  very  de- 
sirable materials  were  too  hideously  expensive.  "Couldn't 
you  make  them  by  machine?"  I  asked  a  French  fabric  man. 
I  knew  he  could.  They  are  sometimes  made  by  machine  in 
America,  the  design  stolen  from  a  hand-made  pattern. 

"Oh,"  said  the  fabric  gentleman,  "they  would  never  be 
so  beautiful."  He  painted  a  pastoral  picture  of  the  peasant 
milking  his  cow  between  weaving  inches  of  the  damask  in 

"Come  on,"  said  I,  "you  know  perfectly  well  it  can  be 
done  by  machine." 

"Well,"  he  smiled  gently,  "it's  still  cheaper  to  have  them 
made  by  hand." 

The  French  standard  of  living  for  the  working  class  has 
been  notoriously  low  for  generations.  The  generations  which 
have  made  the  great  tradition  of  French  fabrics  and  dress- 
making, the  generations  which  have  made  possible  the  build- 
ing of  the  great  tradition,  were  still  quietly  carrying  on  in 
1925  when  I  went  to  work  in  Paris. 


They  carried  on  with  the  buckles  and  the  buttons,  the 
flowers  and  other  odds  and  ends  which  go  into  fine  dresses. 
Any  time  you  want  a  special  buckle  in  France,  someone  will 
run  it  up  for  you.  They  don't  have  to  make  a  die  and  cast  a 
thousand  of  them. 

One  at  a  time,  a  yard  at  a  time,  a  dress  at  a  time,  this  is 
what  is  needed  to  carry  on  the  great  tradition.  It  is  medieval, 
it  is  anachronistic,  it  is  why  all  beautiful  clothes  are  supposed 
to  be  made  in  France  and  all  women  are  supposed  to  want 

The  whole  French  clothing  industry,  from  the  materials 
down  to  the  last  button,  is  run  for  the  purpose  of  dressing 
women  individually,  to  order.  The  designers  are  not  only 
bred  to  do  that,  but  they  are  urged  to  do  only  that. 

The  French  have  never  tried  very  hard,  or  with  any  con- 
viction to  make  cheap  clothes  in  mass  production.  They  de- 
sign beautiful  clothes  for  rich  and  beautiful  women,  and 
what  the  rest  of  the  French  population  wears  is  of  no  impor- 
tance. It  is  not  only  of  no  importance  to  the  French  designer, 
it  is  of  no  importance  to  anyone  in  the  fashion  world. 

All  those  who  have  ever  been  in  France  know  that  the 
majority  of  women  wear  a  tailored  suit  or  a  black  dress  and 
that's  that.  The  entire  French  legend  is  built  up  on  a  few  de- 
signers who  design  for  a  small  group  of  a  few  hundred  or 
possibly  a  few  thousand  women  who  are  "chic." 

There  is  no  word  in  English  for  chic.  Why  should  there 
be?  Everything  chic  is  by  legend  French.  Perhaps  everything 
chic  is  in  reality  French.  The  French  invented  chic  and  they 
keep  it  alive  by  what  has  come  to  be  a  very  complicated  ma- 
chinery. It  was  not  complicated  when  all  women  who  wanted 
and  could  afford  more  clothing  than  enough  to  cover  their 
bodies  were  the  very  rich  and  leisurely  European  popula- 
tion, plus  a  few  ladies  in  the  hinterland  of  America,  Russia, 


Argentina.  It  was  not  complicated  before  America  swung 
into  mass  production. 

We  try  very  hard  to  have  chic  in  America,  but  the  ground 
is  not  fertile.  We  tried  to  substitute  an  English  word, 
"smart."  R.  H.  Macy  took  it  right  into  the  heart  of  our  cul- 
ture and  decided  it  was  "smart  to  be  thrifty."  That  fixed  that 
word.  Nobody  who  knows  anything  about  chic  thinks  you  can 
have  it  and  be  thrifty.  Nobody  has  ever  seen  a  chic  woman 
in  thrifty  $29.50  clothes. 

If  you  are  chic,  you  have  your  hair  done  every  day  or 
two.  Your  nails  are  perfect.  Your  stockings  scarcely  last  an 
evening.  Your  shoes  are  impeccable.  Your  jewelry  is  real 
and  expensive.  Your  clothes  are  made  to  order  and  to  fit. 
They  are  your  clothes  made  in  your  colors  and  not  one  of  a 
thousand  machine-made  copies.  Your  hats  are  your  hats 
with  the  brims  exactly  the  right  width  and  bend. 

Chic  is  a  combination  of  style  and  fashion.  To  be  really 
chic,  a  woman  must  have  positive  style,  a  positive  way  of  liv- 
ing and  acting  and  looking  which  is  her  own.  To  this  she  adds 
those  endless  trips  to  the  hairdresser,  facial  lady,  shoemaker 
and  dressmaker.  With  infallible  taste  for  her  own  problems, 
she  chooses  what  is  in  her  style  and  fashionable  at  the  same 
time.  If  her  style  is  not  quite  the  fashion,  the  chic  woman  ef- 
fects a  compromise  with  the  edge  on  the  fashionable  side. 

Being  chic  was  not  only  created  "on  the  Continent"  but 
it  fundamentally  can  only  flourish  in  that  unhurried  atmos- 
phere. It  takes  a  background  of  leisured  people  with  secure 
bankrolls  who  don't  have  or  want  to  worry  about  what's 
going  on  at  the  office,  to  produce  chic  and  keep  it  alive.  It 
takes  large  houses,  in  town  and  in  country,  with  plenty  of 
servants  who  run  everything  smoothly,  without  requiring 
too  many  orders. 

The  chic  woman  must  have  a  lady's  maid  who  worries 


over  what  her  lady  looks  like  even  more  than  my  lady  does 
herself.  It  is  the  maid,  Marie,  who  says,  "Madame  really 
must  buy  some  new  hats.  The  little  black  felt  in  particular, 
of  which  Madame  is  so  fond,  is  becoming  just  a  trifle 
stretched  on  the  left  edge  where  Madame  pulls  it  down  over 
her  eye.  And  the  navy  tailleur!  Really  Madame  cannot  wear 
it  again.  There  is  just  the  merest  shine  on  the  back  of  the 
skirt.  Madame's  net  evening  dress  has  a  small  tear  in  the 
skirt.  I  have  mended  it,  but  Madame  will  only  care  to  wear 
it  at  home  in  the  future." 

Oh,  to  all  the  people  who  design  and  put  together  Ma- 
dame's  clothes,  her  lady's  maid  is  of  vital  importance.  It  is 
Marie  who  will  tell  Madame,  "The  clothes  which  you  bought 
last  season  at  Adrienne's,  Madame.  I  think  you  will  not 
want  to  go  there  this  season,  really.  The  seams  split  on  the 
sleeves  every  time  Madame  wore  one  of  them.  The  black  lace 
was  definitely  some  old  stuff  which  broke  on  the  first  wear- 
ing. I  feel  sure  Madame  can  find  what  she  likes  at  Dolneau 
where  the  workmanship  is  so  excellent.  I  have  never,  Ma- 
dame, had  to  repair  one  seam  of  a  Dolneau  frock." 

She  has  never,  perhaps,  had  to  repair  one  seam  of  a 
Dolneau  frock.  Even  if  she  has,  Dolneau  has  repaid  her. 
Marie  gets  a  cut  on  everything  that  Madame  buys  in  Paris. 
It  is  the  prerogative  of  the  lady's  maid  to  pay  the  bills.  She 
puts  on  her  neat  navy  coat  and  small  blue  felt  hat.  She  pulls 
up  her  sturdy  cotton  stockings  and  slips  in  to  her  old  black 
purse  a  bunch  of  thousand  franc  notes  which  Madame  gives 
her  for  the  Dolneau  clothes.  She  scuttles  silently  up  to  a  cer- 
tain desk  in  Dolneau's  big  house  on  the  rue  Royale.  She 
hands  over  her  high  pile  of  franc  notes. 

She  receives  back  a  little  pile  of  franc  notes,  her  pay-off 
for  liking  Dolneau  clothes.  Maybe  he  pays  her  10%  and 
Adrienne  only  gave  her  5%.  Adrienne's  clothes  immedi- 


ately  burst  at  the  seams,  the  hems  fall  out  of  them,  the  mate- 
rials go  into  holes  like  magic.  Madame  will  surely  prefer  to 
buy  her  clothes  at  Dolneau  the  next  season. 

Madame  needn't  worry  about  whether  she  has  enough 
silk  stockings,  whether  her  lingerie  is  about  to  give  out,  what 
she  is  going  to  wear  to  lunch  today.  Marie  will  purchase  the 
stockings,  at  a  very  good  price  from  which,  even  so,  she  will 
be  given  her  commission.  Marie  will  call  in  the  lingerie 
woman  some  morning,  when  Madame  has  nothing  to  do  be- 
tween twelve  and  one,  so  a  new  set  can  be  ordered.  Marie 
will  make  the  important  decision  between  the  beige  outfit 
with  the  olive  green  accessories  and  the  simple  black  crepe 
with  the  very  small  white  edgings  in  which  Madame  looks  so 
very  very  chic. 

Madame's  butler  will  run  everything  about  the  house  so 
she  never  has  to  give  it  a  thought.  Madame's  chauffeur  will 
know  by  instinct  the  addresses  where  she  wants  to  go  to  shop, 
for  lunch,  for  the  weekend. 

And  the  husband  of  Madame  will  have  time  to  go  week- 
ending with  her.  He  will  not  be  too  busy  to  run  off  to  the 
south  of  France  when  it  gets  a  bit  rainy  in  Paris.  He  will 
have  time  to  notice  every  new  bag  and  belt  and  shoe  she 
wears.  He  will  go  shopping  with  her  and  have  long  consulta- 
tions with  the  saleslady. 

"Madame's  little  gray  tailleur  of  last  spring  was  just  a 
trifle  too  young  for  her,"  Monsieur  will  say.  "I  think  that 
these  very  short  skirts  are  not  becoming  to  Madame.  We 
must  choose  something  just  the  merest  bit  more  serious- 
minded  this  season.  Cherie,  vraiment,  you  know  perfectly 
well  that  your  legs  are  just  a  touch  plump.  Of  course,  I  adore 
them,  but  in  public  I  think  we  should  have  them  covered  just 
two  inches  lower  down." 

The  hours  consumed  in  getting  just  the  right  shoe  to 


complete  each  costume,  and  fitting  that  shoe  and  sending  it 
back  and  fitting  it  again,  seem  a  very  pleasant  way  of  spend- 
ing time  in  Paris.  The  only  other  thing  you  must  do  that  day 
is  get  dressed  for  dinner  at  nine.  Next  week  you  and  Mon- 
sieur are  going  off  to  the  little  country  place  in  Normandy 
for  a  rest  anyway. 

Chic,  chic,  it  rests  on  the  craftspeople,  the  servants,  the 
time,  and  the  money  which  Monsieur  has  inherited,  or  found 
somewhere.  Maybe  he  works  just  a  little.  Maybe  Madame 
came  from  Pittsburgh  with  a  fortune  in  coal  mines.  He  will 
love  her  legs  which  are  a  little  too  fat,  and  she  will  love  to  be 
a  countess. 

It  doesn't  cost  too  much  in  Europe,  what  with  the  coal 
mines  and  the  wages  one  pays.  The  ladies'  maid  gets  $20  a 
month  plus  her  commissions.  The  butler  doesn't  get  much 
more.  There's  plenty  left  for  the  Rolls  Royce  and  the  small 
villa  of  forty  rooms  in  Cannes.  It's  a  wonderful  life.  The  food 
is  superb,  the  wine  better.  The  sun  is  warm  when  it  should  be 
and  the  snow  is  on  the  Alps  if  Madame  wants  to  ski. 

The  main  problem  of  the  chic  life  is  having  the  right 
clothes  to  wear  in  the  temperature  one  happens  to  prefer  at 
the  time.  In  June  you  must  have  special  clothes  for  London 
and  Ascot.  In  January  you  find  yourself  setting  out  for  the 
Lido,  with  the  proper  nakedness  to  catch  the  sun.  You  may 
have  to  get  some  shooting  togs  for  October  in  Scotland,  and 
there  are  the  proper  evening  clothes  for  playing  roulette  in 
Biarritz  in  March. 

And  Madame  is  attractive.  No  one,  however  jealous  of 
her  leisurely  life,  could  dare  to  deny  it.  Sometimes  she  gets 
too  fat  or  too  thin.  Sometimes  she  has  nerves  and  develops 
wrinkles.  But  all  of  these  things  can  be  kept  in  shape  by  mas- 
sage, facials,  doctors,  and  what  not.  A  group  of  chic  women, 
beautifully  dressed,  in  perfect  taste  for  the  occasion,  clean 


and  well-groomed,  are  about  as  seductive  a  picture  as  the 
heart  could  wish. 

They  are  perfectly  sure  of  themselves,  and  their  posi- 
tion, their  clothes  and  their  friends.  They  are  photographed 
and  written  about.  They  are  built  up.  The  great  French  leg- 
end rests  lightly  on  their  lovely  white  or  sun-tanned  shoul- 

The  French  couturier  knows  and  understands  these 
women — and  no  other  women.  He  creates  the  major  part  of 
their  chic,  supplemented  as  it  is  by  accessories  and  all  that 
goes  into  being  well-groomed. 

All  beautiful  clothes  are  designed  in  the  houses  of  the 
French  couturiers  and  all  women  want  those  clothes.  You 
can  read  it  in  the  newspapers.  You  can  read  it  in  the  maga- 
zines. Your  best  friend  will  tell  you  so. 

Once  chic  existed  innocently  enough,  the  natural  result 
of  French  dressmaking  and  the  leisurely  life.  Everyone  ac- 
cepted it  quietly  as  the  normal  thing  for  those  who  could  have 
it.  It  is  simply  the  expensively  fashionable  angle  of  real 

What  the  thief,  fashion,  did  to  it  is  of  vital  interest  to 
the  American  public.  Armed  with  the  tools  of  mass  produc- 
tion, aided  by  the  advertising  man  and  the  promotion  expert, 
abetted  by  a  wild  prosperity,  fashion  has  used  the  French 
legend  for  his  own  scheming  ends. 


3  •  Of  QPa*  SfcrtureJ 


|j\)R  the  first  twenty-f our  years  of  my  life,  I  believed  in  the 
JL  French  legend.  Like  most  middle-  and  upper-class  young 
people,  I  was  nurtured  in  it  before  I  ever  heard  of  the  cloth- 
ing business  in  general  or  designing  in  particular. 

My  maternal  grandfather  was  the  vice-president  of  a 


couple  of  railroads  and,  as  such,  sufficiently  affluent  to  send 
his  two  children  abroad  to  polish  off  their  educations.  His 
son,  my  uncle  Fred,  studied  architecture  in  Paris  and  lived 
in  France  for  several  years. 

My  mother  was  a  very  independent  young  woman.  Al- 
though the  head  of  her  New  York  finishing  school  didn't 
think  it  was  "proper,"  she  went  to  Vassar  in  the  gay  nineties. 
She  subsequently  traveled  and  lived  in  France,  bicycling 
about  the  shores  of  the  Mediterranean  in  long  flowing  skirts. 
She  won  tennis  championships  in  those  same  proper  clothes. 

Finally  she  consented  to  settle  down  to  married  life  in 
Ridgewood,  New  Jersey,  a  town  her  father  and  uncle  had 
largely  owned  in  the  eighties.  Her  trousseau,  most  of  which 
is  still  extant  in  the  family  attic,  was  made  in  Paris. 

My  earliest  recollections  of  my  own  clothes  hinge  on  my 
"Paris  dress."  I  had  one  a  year  for  some  time,  brought  back 
from  the  annual  pilgrimage  of  my  grandmother  to  the  land 
of  art  and  chic.  The  dresses  were  always  white,  batiste  or 
pique,  and  covered  with  hand-embroidered  eyelets,  scallops 
and  blue  satin  sashes.  They  invariably  had  short  sleeves  and 
low  necks  and  I  was  forced  to  wear  guimpes  under  them  in 
the  winter.  A  guimpe  is  a  sort  of  shirtwaist  with  long  sleeves 
and  a  high  neck.  I  loathed  guimpes. 

I  also  was  greatly  disgusted  by  being  made  to  wear  long- 
legged  underwear  to  dancing  school.  It  made  bumps  on  my 
ankles  and  deeply  offended  my  sense  of  chic. 

As  a  reaction  I  took  to  dressing  kewpies  exclusively  in 
hats.  A  later  hangover  shows  up  from  time  to  time  in  the 
winter.  I  have  a  decided  tendency  to  go  out  on  the  coldest 
nights  clad  in  one  chiffon  evening  dress  and  an  elbow-length 
velvet  cape. 

However,  in  spite  of  being  too  well  clothed  for  any  aes- 
thetic pleasure  in  the  winters,  my  childhood  passed  off  quite 


painlessly.  I  spent  hours  on  the  kewpies'  millinery,  and  more 
hours  making  dolls'  clothes.  Mother  was  an  early  Montes- 
sori  addict  of  modern  education  and  that  included  being 
taught  to  do  all  sorts  of  handicrafts.  I  made  dozens  of  reed 
and  raffia  baskets  and  literally  miles  of  beadwork.  The  bead- 
work  took  me  on  occasional  trips  to  the  Museum  of  Natural 
History  for  designs. 

My  grandfather  died  before  I  was  born  and  apparently 
the  excess  money  just  gradually  dwindled  away.  My  grand- 
mother's annual  trips  to  Paris  and  the  resulting  clothes 
ceased  quietly.  My  father  and  mother  produced  four  chil- 
dren, of  which  I  was  the  second,  born  on  December  16, 1903. 
We  had  an  average  middle-class  existence  in  a  commuter's 
town  about  twenty-five  miles  from  New  York. 

By  the  time  there  were  four  children,  we  bulged  out  of 
the  corners  of  a  shingle  house  which  was  always  going  to 
have  an  addition  but  never  did.  We  had  a  rather  nice  small 
wood,  behind  the  house,  where  we  played.  Across  the  side- 
walkless  street  there  was  a  big  potato  patch,  on  my  grand- 
mother's place,  which  was  always  going  to  be  a  tennis  court, 
but  never  got  there.  There  were  several  brooks  within  easy 
playing  distance. 

In  the  backyard,  our  playhouse  was  an  old  wireless  cabin 
off  one  of  the  Southern  Pacific  ships.  My  father  was  an  assist- 
ant manager  in  that  company.  We  had  a  big  vegetable  garden 
and  small  flower  gardens,  one  for  each  child.  There  were  the 
usual  sandboxes,  slides,  and  trapezes  spread  around  a  mossy 
backyard.  The  grass  never  would  grow  because  there  were 
so  many  oak  trees  the  soil  was  shaded  and  sour. 

Mother,  with  a  taste  for  the  finer  materials  and  work- 
manship in  clothes  and  not  much  to  buy  them  with,  took  to 
having  our  things  made  in  the  house.  Our  shopping  expedi- 
tions to  town  consisted  in  biannual  trips  to  Alexander's  to 


buy  shoes,  followed  by  rummaging  over  remnant  counters 
for  wonderful  material.  Then  we  walked  by  the  windows  of 
nice  expensive  French-importing  shops  and  mother  made 
sketches  on  bits  of  paper.  This  was  always  followed  by  lunch 
at  Henri's  or  Maillard's  and  once  a  year  a  trip  to  the  Hippo- 
drome, once  a  trip  to  the  circus,  finally  occasional  theaters. 
My  first  theater  was  "The  Blue  Bird"  and  I  still  remember 
quite  well  the  color  of  one  blue  stage  set. 

The  dressmaker  would  come  for  a  week  at  a  time  and, 
with  patterns  and  sketches,  run  up  our  clothes.  We  were  my 
older  sister,  myself,  four  years  younger  than  she,  my  little 
sister,  four  years  younger  than  I,  and  a  brother  two  years 
younger  than  she. 

By  the  time  I  was  nine  or  ten,  I  took  to  sewing  my  own 
clothes.  When  I  was  twelve,  I  went  into  dressmaking  profes- 
sionally. First  I  made  a  few  clothes  for  younger  children, 
daughters  of  mother's  friends.  The  drive  was  entirely  eco- 
nomic. I  always  wanted  to  buy  something,  beads  for  the  bead- 
work,  material  for  another  dress,  Christmas  presents. 

A  Mrs.  Drinker  in  Ridgewood  made  really  very  charm- 
ing and  beautiful  clothes  for  her  young  daughter  and  also 
for  a  little  shop  in  Haverford,  Pennsylvania.  She  regarded 
my  sewing  activities  with  interest  and  some  amusement  and 
offered  to  try  and  sell  some  of  my  things  to  the  shop.  It  was 
called  the  Greenaway  Shop,  I  remember. 

I  designed  and  made  up  a  couple  of  gingham  dresses  and 
one  of  unbleached  muslin  with  applique  embroidery  for 
ages  three  to  five  which  she  sent  to  the  shop.  They  were  priced 
about  $2.50  each.  The  material  probably  cost  a  dollar.  The 
shop  re-ordered  on  the  muslin  dress,  four  of  them  in  differ- 
ent sizes. 

There  my  professional  dressmaking  activity  ceased  for 
a  while.  I  graduated  from  grade  school  and  went  on  to  the 


high  school.  Social  and  school  life  took  up  all  my  time  ex- 
cept for  making  my  own  clothes.  I  designed  and  made  all  of 
them  from  then  on  and  on  and  on  forever,  except  for  occa- 
sional lapses  in  France  later. 

I  used  Vogue  and  Harper's  Bazaar  freely,  copying 
sketches  or  changing  them.  This  further  enforced  the  French 
legend  on  my  mind.  All  beautiful  clothes  were  designed  in 
France  and  all  women,  including  myself,  wanted  them. 

How  I  escaped  going  to  art  school  instead  of  Vassar,  I 
don't  know  exactly.  I  made  a  slight  move  in  the  art  school 
direction  but  the  family  tradition  for  Vassar  was  strong.  My 
older  sister  was  there,  following  in  mother's  footsteps.  There 
was  no  fuss  about  whether  or  not  I  was  going.  I  was  a  good 
student  and  passed  my  comprehensives  without  any  trouble. 

My  first  year  at  Vassar  was  marked  by  nothing  much  in 
particular.  My  sister  was  a  senior  and  had  a  good  many  men 
for  weekends.  I  tried  to  fall  in  with  the  same  plan.  It  worked 
with  fair  success  until  the  end  of  that  year  when  I  lost  the 
beau  I  had  kept  hanging  over  from  high  school.  He  went  to 
Williams  and,  after  having  me  to  one  house  party,  outgrew 
me.  I  was  quite  unattractive  and  as  I  became  progressively 
more  serious-minded  during  the  next  three  years,  I  had 
fewer  and  fewer  boy-friends. 

Freshman  year  I  was  the  assistant  on  costumes  for  the 
annual  outdoor  play.  I  don't  think  I  designed  anything.  The 
play  was  "Kismet"  and  my  recollection  is  that  I  simply 
worked  out  the  sketches  of  the  girl  who  was  my  boss. 

After  having  my  appendix  out  that  summer,  1922,  I 
went  back  for  sophomore  year  and  discovered  economics. 
I  never  paid  much  attention  to  anything  else  at  Vassar  after 
that.  I  took  the  required  things,  mathematics  and  chemistry 
always  netted  me  A's.  The  literature  and  art  courses  I  elected 
bored  me  and  I  got  B.  The  economics,  such  as  they  were,  fas- 


cinated  me.  They  included  not  only  the  law  of  supply  and 
demand,  but  Labor  Problems,  The  Family,  Socialism,  fi- 
nally Advanced  Economic  Theory.  Senior  year  I  spent  four 
long  months  in  the  library  reading  every  word  ever  spoken 
or  written  by  Ramsay  MacDonald  and  rewrote  it  all  into  a 
thesis  on  which  I  did  not  one  ray  of  individual  thinking — 
but  I  got  A. 

Outside  the  economics  classes,  I  concentrated  on  clothes. 
At  the  end  of  sophomore  year,  I  went  to  Parson's  School  of 
Fine  and  Applied  Arts  in  New  York  for  a  six  weeks'  course. 
I  learned  a  very  important  thing,  namely  that  no  art  school, 
however  satisfactory  to  others,  was  ever  going  to  teach  me 
how  to  design  clothes.  We  kept  going  to  the  Metropolitan 
Museum  and  taking  down  Coptic  designs  which  we  trans- 
formed painstakingly  into  colored  plates.  Then  we  took  bits 
of  the  designs  and  made  them  into  or  onto  supposedly  mod- 
ern clothes.  We  took  life  drawing  but  no  one  ever  mentioned 
anatomy  to  me  as  a  student  of  dress  design.  Apparently  it  did 
not  occur  to  them  that  I  was  going  to  dress  living  human  be- 
ings who  had  bones  and  muscles. 

I  finished  all  my  assignments  in  no  time  and  spent  hours 
posing  for  the  advanced  students.  During  the  other  hours, 
spent  on  the  subway  and  train  between  Ridgewood  and  up- 
per Broadway,  I  decided  I'd  better  learn  how  clothes  were 

The  next  summer,  1924,  through  a  friend  who  bought 
clothes  at  Bergdorf  Goodman,  I  was  able  to  go  into  their 
workroom  as  an  apprentice,  unpaid.  I  got  to  work  at  eight- 
thirty  every  morning.  I  got  home  about  seven-thirty  every 
night.  We  worked  on  the  top  floor  with  skylights  letting  in 
all  the  mid-summer  sun.  I  was  so  tired  I  cried  every  night 
when  I  got  home.  I  learned  how  expensive  clothes  were  made 
to  order. 


The  French  imports  came  into  Bergdorf  s  before  I  left 
that  summer.  There  again  were  those  beautiful  clothes  which 
legend  assured  us  could  only  be  designed  in  France.  I  de- 
cided I'd  better  go  to  France  and  find  out  what  it  was  all 

The  last  college  year,  '24-'25,  was  spent  half  on  Ramsay 
MacDonald,  half  on  how  I  was  to  get  to  France.  First  I  tried 
to  graduate  in  the  middle  of  the  year.  I  had  enough  credits. 
The  Dean  decided  just  at  that  point  that  one  was  only  capable 
of  doing  advanced  work  after  three  and  a  half  years  at  Vassar 
and  that  no  diploma  should  be  given  out  before  the  end  of 
four  full  years.  So  I  descended  to  the  basement  of  the  library 
and  lived  through  the  last  semester  with  my  liberal  laborite. 

The  reason  I  wanted  to  graduate  six  months  in  advance 
was  to  have  the  extra  money  for  going  to  France.  If  I'd  had 
any  sense,  I  would  have  just  left.  As  it  was,  I  faced  an  eco- 
nomic problem  of  no  mean  proportion,  considering  the  fact 
that  I  had  exactly  $25  a  month  for  everything  including 

I  tried  for  a  scholarship  and  muffed  it  for  a  very  simple 
reason.  I  went  with  my  best  girl  friend  to  a  dance  at  a  prep 
school.  It  was  all  done  to  please  her  little  boy  cousin.  We 
were  damned  if  we  were  going  to  take  off  one  of  our  precious 
four  weekends.  At  Vassar  in  those  days  we  were  only  allowed 
to  leave  the  college  four  weekends  in  every  semester. 

So  we  went  to  the  dance  without  signing  out.  When  we 
got  there,  the  whole  freshman  class  was  there  from  Vassar — 
also  without  signing  up.  They  all  went  right  back  and  con- 
fessed their  crime.  We  maintained  silence  until  someone 
sent  an  anonymous  letter  telling  all  to  the  head  warden. 

The  authorities  called  us  in  and  said  they  never  paid  any 
attention  to  anonymous  letters  but  that  we  might  just  as  well 
confess.  We  did.  I  didn't  get  any  scholarship. 


However,  I  got  to  work  and  began  to  design  clothes  for 
my  friends.  I  used  a  dressmaker  nearby  for  sewing  them 
up.  I  finally  got  into  a  dress  shop  on  the  edge  of  the  campus 
and  designed  clothes  for  it.  Those  clothes  were  made  in  a 
factory  in  Poughkeepsie  and  sold  quite  well. 

I  put  ads  in  the  Vassar  paper  to  the  effect  that  I  had 
worked  at  Bergdorf  Goodman  and  was  ready  to  do  anything 
for  anybody.  I  made  a  few  hundred  dollars  on  commission 
from  the  shop. 

When  I  told  my  French  teacher  I  was  going  to  work  in 
France,  she  just  laughed.  My  French  was  so  bad,  I'd  dropped 
it  after  Freshman  year.  I  went  back  to  it  senior  year  and 
took  a  frightful  course  in  advanced  French  composition 
which  proved  quite  a  boon  in  writing  and  made  my  grammar 
fairly  accurate.  My  accent  was,  and  remains,  perfectly  awful. 

Then  everyone  joined  hands  and  told  me  very  plainly 
that  I  could  never  get  a  job  in  France.  They  seemed  to  just 
know  it  by  instinct.  France,  they  insisted,  was  for  the  French. 

Bonwit  Teller  at  that  time  had  an  employment  bureau. 
I  can't  imagine  why.  They  probably  got  promising  young 
people  into  the  store  that  way.  They  made  an  endeavor  to 
help  get  college  people  any  sort  of  job.  They  gave  me  a  let- 
ter to  their  Paris  office. 

One  of  my  friends  at  Vassar,  Evelyn  Johnson,  had  left 
at  the  end  of  her  junior  year.  Her  mother  was  married  to  a 
French  perfume  importer  and  spent  every  summer  in  France. 
Evelyn  decided  to  go  to  Paris  with  me  when  I  sailed  after 
college.  She  thought  her  mother  might  help  me  to  get  a  job. 

I  had  a  few  harassed  moments  in  the  late  spring  between 
economics  and  clothes.  After  all  the  time  I  had  spent  on  la- 
bor problems,  plus  Bergdorf's  workroom,  I  began  to  have 
vague  humanitarian  impulses  toward  saving  the  world  some- 


My  mother,  I  might  add,  had  been  saving  various  situa- 
tions all  her  life.  First  she  kept  saving  the  family  finances 
by  dealing  in  family  real  estate  and  dabbling  around  the 
stock  market.  Then  she  had  always  saved  the  entire  Negro 
population  of  Ridgewood  from  being  thrown  out  of  their 
houses,  jailed  for  drunkenness,  or  starved  to  death  from  lack 
of  work.  Most  of  them  had  been  our  servants  at  one  time 
or  another.  She  worked  for  years  on  the  board  of  education 
and  in  county  politics.  Anyone  who  wanted  to  know  anything 
about  anything  in  Ridgewood  always  called  up  mother.  One 
night  a  gentleman  called  up  and  said,  "Mrs.  Hawes,  what 
shall  I  do?  Someone  is  dumping  garbage  on  the  lot  next  to 
my  house."  Of  course,  mother  told  him  what  to  do. 

It  is  necessary  to  understand,  however,  that  she  never  told 
me  what  to  do.  When  I  announced  my  intention  of  going  to 
work  in  Paris,  she  said,  "How  long  are  you  going  to  stay?" 

Obviously  I  come  naturally  by  a  desire  to  save  humanity. 
Fortunately,  my  economics  teacher  of  the  moment  listened 
to  my  wailing  around  about  whether  or  not  it  was  really  the 
proper  thing  to  devote  my  life  to  the  matter  of  clothes.  She 
convinced  me  without  too  much  difficulty  that  I  might  as  well 
take  the  gifts  and  desires  that  God  had  given  me  and  save 
a  portion  of  the  population  from  wearing  anything  but 
Hawes'  designs. 

Finally  the  spring  of  1925  got  over.  We  received  our  di- 
plomas. We  went  home.  I  made  a  few  clothes  and  prepared 
to  sail  the  first  part  of  July.  And  I  had  my  first  newspaper 

A  woman  on  the  Newark  News  decided  that,  since  mother 
was  so  prominent  in  our  county,  I  should  be  interviewed.  It 
was  a  sort  of  brave-young-girl-just-starting-out-in-the-world 
story  with  quite  a  nice  picture.  It  brought  results. 

A  young  advertising  lady  in  a  department  store  in 


Wilkes-Barre,  Pennsylvania,  wrote  me  a  letter  and  asked  if 
I  wouldn't  like  to  report  her  some  news  from  Paris  which 
she  could  use  in  ads.  I  think  it  was  to  come  out  to  about  $15 
a  month.  I  responded  "yes"  very  loud. 

That  gave  me  another  thought.  I  repaired  to  the  local 
paper  and  asked  them  if  they  wouldn't  like  me  to  write  them 
something  regular  from  Paris.  They  said,  "Yes,  about  $10 
worth  a  month." 

So  Evelyn  Johnson  and  I  sailed  for  France,  July  8, 1925, 
student  third  class  on  the  Berengaria.  I  was  not  seasick  and 
learned  to  do  my  first  drinking  on  that  voyage.  I  had  three 
hundred  dollars  and  a  diamond  ring.  It  had  been  one  of  my 
grandmother's  earrings.  The  family  had  it  set  and  said  I 
could  always  pawn  it  to  get  home.  I  still  have  it. 




BEFORE  the  big  docks  were  built,  the  harbor  at  Cherbourg 
was  the  very  nicest  place  to  land  in  France  for  the  first 
time.  You  were  taken  off  your  big  boat  and  put  onto  a  tug 
which  sidled  into  such  a  pleasant,  small,  inefficient  world. 
The  porters  screamed  and  lost  your  baggage  while  you  slowly 


digested  the  low,  whitish  houses,  red  tile  roofs  topped  by  long 
"Tonique"  signs,  backed  by  small  green  hills. 

We  landed  on  the  fourteenth  of  July.  I  felt  as  if  I'd  gotten 
home  after  all  those  years.  The  fourteenth  being  what  it  is, 
the  one  big  national  free-for-all  fete,  our  train  took  fourteen 
hours  getting  from  Cherbourg  to  Paris.  Ordinarily  it  takes 
about  five.  It  seemed  the  engineer  got  off  at  every  town  to 
dance  in  the  streets  or  something. 

I  loved  it.  I  always  relax  the  minute  I  hit  the  French  shore. 
I  knew  then,  as  I  do  every  time,  that  there  just  isn't  any 
hurry.  I  know  now,  as  I  didn't  know  then,  that  the  food  will 
be  good  at  every  little  inn,  the  wine  lovely  and  the  beds  di- 
vine. I  like  the  land  and  the  people  in  France.  If  I  had  been 
born  French,  I  would  be  very  happy  about  it  every  morning. 
I  wasn't  born  French  so  I  finally  had  to  come  home  and  be 
an  American,  after  much  had  happened.  I  didn't  go  to  France 
because  it  was  beautiful  and  peaceful  and  full  of  good  food. 
I  went  to  learn  about  chic.  I  learned  plenty. 

We  installed  ourselves  in  a  cheap  Parisian  pension,  Eve- 
lyn and  I.  We  shopped  with  our  girl-friends  and  I  penetrated 
those  gigantic  dressmaking  places,  the  homes  of  the  French 
couturiers,  for  the  first  time.  The  other  girls  bought  clothes 
while  I  watched  and  felt  quite  terrified  at  finally  being  right 
in  the  middle  of  all  chic.  I  was  so  scared  I  didn't  really  see 
much,  just  very  large  rooms  and  very  smooth  salesladies, 
very  thick  carpets  and  very  beautiful  clothes. 

We'd  go  afterward  and  have  enormous  lunches  with  fifty- 
four  kinds  of  hors  d'oeuvres  and  wonderful  cheese.  Then 
we'd  ride  in  carriages  through  the  Bois,  down  long,  long  lanes 
of  trees.  I  never  got  used  to  the  idea  that  a  forest  should  exist 
without  any  underbrush,  even  on  the  edge  of  Paris.  We  had 
our  tea  in  some  treesy  place  and  rather  hurried  the  driver 
back  to  the  Ritz  bar. 


There  the  boys  who'd  just  graduated  from  Princeton  and 
Yale  and  Harvard  and  the  whole  United  States  bought  drinks 
for  us.  "Double  Alexandres"  I  learned  to  drink  at  that  point. 
Once  after  we'd  all  had  three  double  Alexandres,  which  I, 
personally,  thought  was  the  name  of  the  drink,  we  ordered 
another  round.  The  waiter  looked  at  us  very  hard  and  said, 
"Do  you  want  a  double  Alexandre — or  just  a  single  Alex- 

After  a  few  days,  I  presented  myself  at  Bonwit  Teller's 
Paris  office.  The  head  man,  French  and  fat  and  shiny,  said 
he  didn't  know.  I  might  come  back  a  little  later. 

I  didn't  have  time  to  be  discouraged  at  all,  because  Eve- 
lyn's mother  turned  up  right  away  from  America.  She 
whipped  me  around  to  her  dressmaker  and  muttered  a  few 
brief  and  well-chosen  sentences.  I  was  hired.  I  didn't  know 
for  what  money  or  what  labor  or  what  kind  of  place  it  was, 
but  I  had  the  job.  I  was  to  come  sometime  after  the  fifteenth 
of  August. 

Evelyn  and  I  packed  up  and  went  along  to  Evian  on  the 
Lake  of  Geneva  with  her  family.  They  had  a  regulation 
French  villa,  red  brick,  white  stone  trim,  gravel  walks,  too 
much  furniture.  I  was  so  preoccupied  with  getting  back  to 
my  job  and  wondering  about  it  that  I  recall  very  little  of 
the  visit. 

We  motored  over  the  Alps  a  bit.  They  are  a  little  too  high 
and  mighty  for  my  peace  of  mind.  We  tried  very  hard  to 
read  Ulysses  and  I  failed.  We  went  into  Geneva  and  saw 
where  Mr.  Wilson  had  saved  the  world  for  Democracy.  I 
thought  it  was  very  wonderful.  The  French  were  more  skep- 

Finally  the  middle  of  August  came  around  and  we  scam- 
pered back  to  Paris.  Evelyn  got  a  trousseau  and  went  home 


to  be  married,  I  went  to  work.  My  place  of  business  turned 
out  to  be  a  copy  house. 

A  copy  house  is  a  small  dressmaking  establishment  where 
one  buys  copies  of  the  dresses  put  out  by  the  important  re- 
tail designers.  The  exactitude  of  the  copy  varies  with  the 
price,  which  varies  with  the  amount  of  perfection  any  given 
copy  house  sees  fit  to  attain.  A  really  perfect  copy  of  a  model 
costs  in  a  copy  house  just  about  half  what  it  cost  in  the  place 
where  it  was  born. 

I  am  sure  that  wherever  important  couturiers  have  flour- 
ished in  sufficient  numbers  to  warrant  attention,  there  have 
been  copy  houses.  Certainly  when  I  was  in  Paris  in  1925 
there  were  plenty  of  them,  and  they  still  continue  on  their 
illegitimate  way. 

Since  the  depression,  the  large  houses  in  Paris  have  low- 
ered their  prices  and  have  driven  a  number  of  copyists  out 
of  existence.  The  whole  matter  is  of  interest,  both  because  it 
still  exists  in  Paris  and  because,  if  retail  designers  ever  rise 
to  any  sort  of  eminence  and  numbers  in  New  York,  we  will 
have  our  copy  houses  too.  They  already  exist  but  are  not 
very  virile. 

Copying,  a  fancy  name  for  stealing,  is  also  interesting  as 
an  example  of  what  a  curious  and  rather  degraded  business 
dressmaking  may  be.  The  passion  which  has  been  created 
for  being  chic  leads  to  almost  any  thing,  probably  including 

Most  copy  houses  in  Paris  are  upstairs,  on  side  streets, 
although  the  one  in  which  I  worked  was  on  Faubourg  St. 
Honore,  just  a  bit  up  from  Lanvin  near  the  Place  Beauvais. 
It  was  a  very  good  copy  house.  Our  boast  was  that  we  never 
made  a  copy  of  any  dress  of  which  we  hadn't  had  the  original 
actually  in  our  hands. 

The  front  entrance  was  through  one  of  those  perfectly 


usual  heavy  stone-rimmed  doors,  into  a  dark  and  reasonably 
unclean  hall,  up  a  winding  stair  to  a  door  which  bore  a  brass 
plate  marked  with  the  name  of  the  house,  call  it  Doret.  There 
was  a  door-bell. 

The  back  entrance  was  on  through  the  first  floor  hall, 
across  a  rather  dirty  court,  up  a  very  narrow  and  definitely 
dirty  flight  of  stairs  to  a  door  with  no  name  on  it.  That  door 
led  to  the  stockroom.  The  back  stairs  continued  up  to  a  floor 
of  workrooms,  and  above  that  to  a  kitchen  and  small  dining 
room  where  everyone  except  the  actual  sewing  girls  ate  lunch 
together,  when  there  was  time  to  eat  lunch. 

The  house  was  supposed  to  be  closed  from  twelve  to  two 
for  lunch.  If  a  customer  was  in  at  twelve,  we  were  stuck  until 
she  left.  If  there  was  no  customer,  the  front  door  was  locked 
at  twelve,  and  the  loud  clarion  voice  of  Madame  Doret,  re- 
sounded through  the  place,  "A  table!" 

We  had  very  good  substantial  food,  soup,  rabbit  stew, 
salad  and  cheese.  There  was  plenty  of  red  wine  and  chunks 
of  bread.  Monsieur  Doret,  the  only  man  in  the  place,  was 
master  of  the  table.  He  always  wore  a  cigarette  stuck  behind 
his  ear  for  lunch,  and  spoke  in  Montmartre  argot,  that  low- 
down  slang  which  one  is  not  taught  at  Vassar.  It  took  me  a 
good  two  months  to  get  to  the  point  of  following  the  luncheon 

Copy  houses  are  not  chic  in  interior  decoration.  They  are 
in  business  for  the  sole  purpose  of  underselling  the  designers 
from  whom  they  steal  their  wares.  Our  main  entrance  was 
usually  unlocked,  but  there  was  a  gong  attached  to  the  door 
so  that  nobody  could  sneak  in  without  our  knowing  it.  When 
there  was  any  suspicion  of  an  approaching  raid,  the  front 
door  was  locked.  One  rang  for  admittance.  Sometimes  we 
answered  the  bell.  If  we  actually  expected  a  raid,  we  just 
didn't.  All  the  old  customers  knew  how  to  get  in  by  the  rear 


entrance  and  when  the  copy-house-seeking  police  were  on 
the  rampage,  we  didn't  want  any  new  clients. 

If  the  customer  got  in,  she  entered  a  small  hall  with  a 
dingy  carpet,  walked  past  a  tiny  office  on  the  left  which  was 
used  hy  the  salespeople  and  the  sketcher  and,  in  times  of 
great  rush,  as  a  fitting  room.  On  the  right  was  a  large  office 
where  Monsieur  Doret  plied  his  nefarious  trade  of  keeping 
a  double  set  of  books.  It  appears  to  me  to  be  especially  a 
French  characteristic,  not  in  any  sense  limited  to  the  dress 
business,  to  hate  to  pay  taxes. 

Monsieur  Doret  made  a  great  point  of  doing  all  transac- 
tions in  cash.  Although  the  set-up  did  not  indicate  any  great 
amount  of  profit,  it  was  he,  rather  than  any  of  my  rich  Amer- 
ican friends,  who  got  the  Bankers  Trust  to  open  an  account 
for  me  in  which  I  kept  a  couple  of  dollars  a  month.  I  gathered 
he  had  both  a  dollar  and  a  franc  account  there  and  they  re- 
spected him. 

In  Monsieur  Doret's  office  hung  such  model  dresses  as 
we  kept  to  show.  There  were  very  few  of  them.  We  sold  mostly 
from  sketches.  The  models  were  not  copies.  They  repre- 
sented our  "front."  At  the  beginning  of  every  season  we  ran 
up  a  few  boring  little  sport  dresses  for  show. 

My  job  was  selling  Americans  who  didn't  speak  French 
— also  bringing  customers,  if  possible.  I  improved  my  sketch- 
ing a  bit  and  helped  with  that.  The  hours  were  nine  to  when- 
ever you  got  through,  around  six,  and  I  received  the  munifi- 
cent salary  of  500  francs  a  month,  about  $20  in  1925. 

If  a  customer  arrived  without  any  introduction,  or  if  we 
suspected  her  integrity,  we  showed  her  our  own  models  and 
bowed  her  out.  If  we  knew  her,  or  her  introduction  was  good, 
we  took  her  into  a  small  salon  which  contained  one  large 
table,  a  useless  fireplace,  a  dilapidated  rug,  four  or  five  badly 
painted  imitation  Louis  XV  chairs. 


We  then  got  together  whatever  authentic  copies  we  had, 
mostly  dresses  in  the  process  of  being  made  for  other  cus- 
tomers. We  pieced  out  with  the  sketch  books  and  made  our 

Madame  Doret  was  the  brains  and  energy  of  it  all.  She 
had  worked  in  the  business  under  another  woman  who  finally 
retired  and  left  it  to  her  and  Monsieur.  She  was  little,  about 
five  feet  three,  with  wonderful  legs  and  feet.  Her  hair  was 
curly  and  brown,  and  her  eyes  very  bright  and  black.  She 
never  walked.  She  had  a  sort  of  abbreviated  run  which  got 
her  everywhere  at  once.  She  spent  most  of  her  time  making 
lists  in  the  stockroom,  and  dashing  out  to  see  important  cus- 
tomers. Her  appointments  were  usually  after  five,  at  which 
time  she  shut  herself  up  in  the  salon  with  a  batch  of  foreign 
men,  or  an  odd  French  woman.  Out  of  this  we  always  received 
a  new  set  of  models. 

The  house  was  closed  for  July  and  half  of  August.  This 
was  to  give  us  a  vacation,  but  primarily  to  give  Lanvin  and 
Vionnet,  Chanel  and  the  rest  time  to  get  their  collections 
together  so  we  could  copy  them.  I  went  to  work  the  fifteenth 
of  August,  1925.  There  were  practically  no  models  but  they 
began  to  appear.  By  September  first  we  had  a  nice  collection 
of  fifty  or  sixty  perfect  copies,  exact  material,  exact  color, 
exact  embroidery. 

I  never  got  any  satisfactory  answers  as  to  how  they  got 
there,  but  after  a  few  months  I  became  sufficiently  trusted 
to  become  embroiled  in  the  business  of  stealing.  It  wasn't 
considered  stealing.  It  was  just  business.  Lots  of  people 
wanted  Chanel's  clothes  who  couldn't  afford  them,  and  we 
filled  the  gap. 

I  discovered,  to  my  great  surprise,  that  we  actually  bought 
models.  I  discovered  this  because  I  was  sent  to  buy  them.  I 
was  American  and  young  and  unsuspected.  When  it  became 


pretty  sure  that  there  was  a  particularly  good  dress  some- 
where, and  we  were  not  going  to  be  able  to  get  it  free,  or 
half  price,  or  by  any  of  the  other  hooks  and  crooks  which  I 
finally  learned,  we  bought  it. 

The  dress  was  described  to  me  in  detail  and  usually  I 
was  given  the  number.  I  then  repaired  to  the  couturier's  in 
question,  and  either  used  the  vendeuse  of  a  friend,  or  just 
was  very  American  and  had  never  been  to  Paris  before.  If 
the  dress  was  for  an  older  woman,  I  bought  for  my  mother, 
whose  measures  I  had,  and  to  whom  I  was  taking  the  dress. 
If  it  was  young  enough,  I  had  it  made  and  fitted  on  me. 

I  think  not  more  than  four  or  five  models  a  season  were 
bought  that  way.  But  there  was  one  more  thing  to  be  done 
at  the  couturier's.  The  embroidery  men  always  came  around 
to  us  with  the  embroidery  for  certain  dresses  from  the  big 
houses,  particularly  Callot,  who  was  successful  still.  I  would 
go  and  look  up  those  dresses  and  see  how  they  were  made, 
if  possible.  With  the  exact  embroidery,  and  my  sketch,  our 
model  turned  out  pretty  authentic. 

So  where  did  the  rest  of  the  clothes  come  from?  Three 
major  sources:  customers,  mistresses,  and  foreign  buyers. 
I  don't  know  how  many  years  it  takes  a  copy  house  to  get 
the  sources,  but  ours  were  both  good  and  plentiful. 

Some  of  the  richer  customers  were  women  who  bought  a 
good  many  clothes  directly  from  the  designer.  They  then 
filled  in  their  wardrobes  chez  the  bootlegger.  They  liked  the 
bootlegger  and  they  let  her  copy  their  clothes  in  return  for 
which  they  probably  paid  even  larger  prices,  but  still  only 
half  the  price  of  an  original.  Perhaps  some  of  them  did  get 
really  low  prices.  The  matter  of  price  is  seldom  a  fixed  one 
in  any  dressmaking  establishment,  bootleg  or  not. 

It  made  me  very  proud  to  have  tea  at  the  Ritz  and  see 
our  customers  in  their  Chanels,  exactly  like  the  real  Chanels 


across  the  table.  One  of  the  wonderful  things  about  the  chic 
monde  in  Paris  seemed  to  me  to  be  their  fantastic  desire 
to  all  have  the  same  dress.  In  those  days,  it  was  always 
black.  It  was  not  smart  to  be  economical,  so  if  you  had  a 
copy,  it  really  had  to  be  perfect.  We  dressed  some  of  the 
really  chic  women.  Their  return  favors  probably  gave  us  a 
quarter  of  our  models. 

Half  of  the  models  came  through  foreign  buyers.  This 
always  seemed  to  me  a  rather  sordid  business.  I  do  not  know, 
but  I  assume,  that  we  paid  out  some  money  for  the  privilege 
of  copying  the  models.  I  really  felt  like  a  thief  the  day  I  dis- 
covered how  that  worked. 

I  knew  that  many  of  the  big  couturiers  delivered  clothes 
just  exactly  in  time  to  make  certain  boats,  or  they  tried  to. 
I  always  thought  it  was  because  they  were  busy  with  orders. 
What  they  really  try  to  do  is  prevent  leaks.  But  they  don't 
succeed.  Some  of  the  better  copy  houses  are  run  by  people 
who  work,  or  have  worked,  in  resident  buying  offices.  The 
supply  of  models  is  thus  assured. 

It  was  during  the  mid-season  showings  in  November  that 
I  was  initiated  into  the  mystery  of  the  resident  buyer  and  the 
copy  house.  All  manufacturers  or  stores  who  buy  in  Paris 
work  through  their  resident  buying  offices  which  attend  to 
everything  for  them.  The  resident  buyer  and  his  staff  arrange 
for  tickets  to  the  openings,  attend  the  home-office  buyers 
hand  and  foot,  day  and  night,  while  they  are  in  town,  and 
subsequently  receive  and  ship  the  purchases  to  America  or 

One  of  our  most  frequent  visitors,  the  only  one  who  was 
ever  invited  to  lunch,  was  a  resident  buyer  for  a  large  Amer- 
ican manufacturer.  Madame  Ellis  was  an  American  who  had 
lived  abroad  for  years.  She  was  about  fifty-five,  exceedingly 
attractive,  and  pretty  smart.  Anything  she  lacked  in  brains 


she  had  fully  made  up  for  in  experience.  She  seldom  got  any 
clothes  from  us,  and  I  never  saw  her  bring  anything  into  the 
place.  She  was  obviously  an  old  and  trusted  friend  of  the 
management,  and  spent  a  good  many  weekends  at  the  Do  ret 
country  place. 

I  had  a  very  large  beaver  coat.  A  fur  coat  in  Paris  is 
quite  a  rarity  among  the  working  class.  Mine  turned  out  to 
have  a  special  value.  I  was  requested  to  don  it  one  day  in 
November  and  go  to  the  resident  buying  office  through  which 
Madame  Ellis  worked.  It  was  toward  the  end  of  the  mid- 
season  buying,  the  day  before  a  large  boat  was  to  sail. 

The  buying  offices  in  Paris,  excepting  a  few  of  those 
owned  and  run  by  American  firms,  are,  like  the  copy  houses 
and  most  of  Paris,  situated  in  old  stone  buildings,  built  about 
dirty  courts.  The  halls  are  dark  and  the  stairs  wind  you  up 
to  the  offices. 

I  went  up  to  Madame  Ellis'  office.  She  was  there,  alone, 
with  a  large  pile  of  boxes  from  Chanel.  The  boxes  were 
hastily  opened,  dresses  pulled  out  and  shaken  from  their  tis- 
sue paper  covers.  "Put  them  under  your  coat,"  said  Madame, 
"and  get  them  back  here  as  fast  as  you  can." 

I  automatically  obeyed,  delighted  to  be  in  the  process 
of  verifying  this  source,  flew  downstairs,  into  a  taxi,  to  the 
Faubourg  St.  Honore,  up  our  backstairs,  and  shed  my  booty 
on  the  floor  of  the  stockroom.  The  workgirls  had  gone  home. 
The  fitters  were  there.  They  took  the  clothes  and  made  ac- 
curate patterns  of  them,  while  I  made  accurate  sketches. 

Madame  Doret  even  more  accurately  examined  every 
line,  made  notes  on  buttons,  belts,  cut  bits  of  material  from 
the  seams,  and  looked  over  the  finishing.  We  had  six  or  eight 
new  Chanels  to  sell. 

Someone  was  sure  to  say,  however  untruthfully,  during 
the  examination,  "How  Chanel  has  the  nerve  to  deliver 


clothes  made  this  way!  Look,  it's  all  cut  off  the  grain.  The 
inside  seams  aren't  even  finished." 

But,  well  or  badly  made,  the  idea  was  there,  we  had  it, 
and  the  clothes  went  back  under  my  fur  coat.  I  went  back 
in  a  taxi  to  my  waiting  Madame  Ellis.  The  models  were  put 
back  in  their  tissue  paper,  and  off  they  went  to  New  York 
on  a  fast  boat. 

That  was  the  only  office  I  ever  went  to  for  that  purpose. 
But  it  was  by  no  means  the  only  office  from  which  we  got 
models.  That  happened  to  be  an  order  for  New  York.  We  got 
a  great  many  clothes  from  a  Dutch  buyer  who  probably  got 
a  cut  on  the  profits,  or  some  such  thing.  And  there  was  also 
a  German  who  did  a  good  deal  of  running  in  and  out  with 

There  was  a  regular  business  of  buying  muslin  patterns 
of  dresses.  The  patterns  began  to  appear  as  soon  as  the  work- 
rooms of  the  big  designers  got  going  on  a  new  collection. 
They  were  often  not  authentic,  so  we  didn't  buy  many.  These 
patterns  were,  of  course,  stolen  by  the  sewing  girls  who 
worked  in  the  ateliers  of  Vionnet,  Lanvin,  etc.,  and  copied 
as  the  new  designs  were  made  up. 

A  more  picturesque  source  was  the  mistress.  Our  best 
mistress  was  kept  by  the  manager  of  a  famous  designer.  She 
got  all  her  clothes  from  the  big  house.  Then  she  rented  them 
out  to  various  copyists  to  turn  an  honest  penny  on  the  side. 
This  source  always  rather  pleased  me,  but  Madame  Doret 
didn't  really  like  it  much  because  those  particular  models 
got  into  the  hands  of  every  copy  house  in  town. 

One  couldn't  help  thinking  that  all  of  this  might  be 
stopped.  It  might  have.  But,  for  one  thing,  I  doubt  if  the 
fabric  houses  wanted  it  stopped.  They  could  have  simply 
refused  to  sell  the  materials  to  copyists.  They  didn't.  At  least, 
we  always  bought  direct  and  I  was  never  aware  of  any  diffi- 


culty.  The  fabric  houses  must  have  sold  as  much  to  copyists 
of  certain  materials  as  they  ever  did  to  the  originator  of  the 
model.  And  there  is  an  old  tradition  in  Paris  that  the  day  a 
designer  isn't  copied,  he  is  dead. 

However,  efforts  were  made  to  close  up  copy  houses  from 
time  to  time.  The  general  bootlegging  atmosphere  always 
prevailed  at  our  place.  Models  were  never  left  in  sight,  and 
everything  was  constantly  kept  in  readiness  to  be  hurried 
out  the  door. 

This  may  have  been  because  a  few  years  before  I  went 
there,  the  place  had  been  raided.  The  whole  story  is  typical 
of  the  devious  ways  in  which  the  copyists  continue  their  ex- 
istence against  any  odds.  The  house  was  raided  by  the  police, 
acting  for  a  combination,  which  I  remember  included  Lanvin 
and  Callot,  and,  I  think,  one  other  large  couturier. 

There  is  a  special  organization  in  Paris  which  is  main- 
tained by  the  couturiers  for  the  purpose  of  protection  against 
copying.  Lanvin,  Callot,  et  al.,  on  suspecting  a  certain  copy 
house,  turn  the  matter  over  to  this  bureau  who  in  turn  calls 
in  the  police  of  the  district  to  pull  a  raid.  The  copy  house 
must  be  caught  with  the  actual  and  perfect  copies  on  the 
premises  before  it  can  be  prosecuted. 

Madame  Doret  was  caught  with  the  goods,  perfect  copies, 
and  a  suit  was  brought.  But  it  all  came  out  okay,  and  why? 

The  intelligent  little  Madame  Doret  had  once  been  very 
kind  to  a  customer.  The  customer  had  gone  motoring  with 
a  gentleman,  and  was  hurt  in  an  auto  accident.  The  gentle- 
man with  whom  she  was  motoring  was  not  the  gentleman 
who  was  paying  her  bills.  How  she  landed  on  the  hands  of 
her  copyist  at  this  point,  I  do  not  know,  but  Madame  Doret 
got  her  off  into  hiding,  and  took  care  of  the  whole  affair,  so 
that  not  a  word  ever  got  about.  The  gentleman  who  paid  her 
bills  just  happened  to  be  a  minister  in  the  government. 


So,  when  the  copy  house  was  raided  and  faced  with  dis- 
aster, by  a  simple  gesture  Madame  Doret  got  the  lady  she 
had  befriended  to  get  the  minister  of  the  government  to  do 
something.  The  copy  house  was  fined  a  few  thousand  francs 
and  closed  up — for  two  months. 

If  couturier  designers,  people  who  design  for  and  main- 
tain their  own  dressmaking  establishments,  ever  rise  to  a 
sufficient  prominence  in  New  York,  we  will  have  our  Dorets 
to  organize  the  copying  for  the  individual.  At  the  moment, 
copying  is  not  very  serious — in  this  field.  It  is  done  by  ineffi- 
cient people  who  have  not  discovered  how  to  get  the  orig- 
inals. Even  when  they  do  copy,  their  workmanship  is  apt  to 
be  bad. 

Of  course,  when  I  say  there  is  no  copying  in  New  York, 
I  only  mean  to  imply  that  we  don't  do  things  in  a  small  way. 
We  have  mass  production! 


5   •    ex  ne  tsnotograjynic 

LIFE  at  Doret's,  with  its  multiplicity  of  customers,  their 
buttons  and  belts,  and  an  intermingling  of  excitement  in 
stealing  dresses,  lasted  from  August,  1925,  until  the  middle 
of  January,  1926.  Everything  that  had  to  do  with  work  was 
a  pleasure. 


I  learned  to  recognize  the  styles  of  the  various  French 
designers  through  selling  our  copies  of  their  clothes.  I 
learned  to  speak  French  rapidly,  fluently,  with  a  horrid  in- 
terspersing of  argot.  I  led  the  life  of  a  petite  bourgeoise 
Parisienne  saleslady  whenever  I  could. 

Several  times  I  went  to  dance  halls  on  Saturday  after- 
noon with  the  other  salesgirls.  We  went  to  a  very  large  and 
gaudy  place  on  Montmartre,  greatly  resembling  Roseland  in 
New  York,  except  that  there  were  no  paid  girls  to  dance  with. 
We  were  the  girls. 

One  went  in,  took  a  table,  ordered  a  soft  drink,  and 
waited.  The  boys  were  at  other  tables  or  lined  up  against  the 
wall.  When  the  music  started,  one  of  them  would  come  up 
and  bow  very  formally.  Not  a  word  was  exchanged.  If  you 
liked  his  looks,  you  arose  and  danced.  If  you  didn't  like  his 
looks,  you  politely  regretted  and  were  then  stuck  for  that 
dance.  It  was  not  etiquette  to  turn  down  one  and  immediately 
accept  another. 

The  music  was  frightful,  a  very  big  band  which  played 
old  American  jazz  badly.  If  you  danced,  not  a  word  was 
spoken  by  your  partner  unless  you  started  a  conversation. 
All  my  conversations  were  of  a  very  desultory  nature  and  I 
wasn't  much  of  a  success.  The  instant  the  music  stopped, 
you  were  left  high  and  dry  just  where  you  stood  and  had 
to  return  alone  to  your  table.  Nobody  was  ever  drunk.  It 
was  quite  like  dancing  school. 

Apparently  it  served  the  necessary  purpose  of  making 
new  friends.  One  of  the  girls  from  Doret's  ultimately  mar- 
ried a  Swiss  boy  she  met  dancing  there.  I  never  had  any  such 
luck,  although  there  was  one  day  a  gentleman  who  danced 
with  me  several  times  who  was  not  unattractive.  Several 
months  later,  as  I  was  quietly  having  a  drink  with  someone 


at  the  Ritz  Bar,  in  he  walked  with  quite  an  elegant  lady.  We 
didn't  bow. 

Often  I  went  home  with  one  of  the  salesgirls  for  a  family 
dinner  in  some  very  small,  very  hot,  very  crowded  little 
apartment  in  the  suburbs  of  Paris.  My  favorite  dish  which 
came  into  their  menus  was  rabbit  stew,  and  each  girl  had 
a  grandmother  who  had  a  different  way  of  cooking  it.  One 
did  it  with  red  wine,  another  with  white,  another  with  no 
wine  at  all.  It  was  always  delicious. 

Most  of  the  time  after  work,  I  spent  by  myself.  I  only 
had  one  beau  that  winter.  Men  are  always  very  very  scarce 
in  Paris  for  young  American  girls  except  when  June  brings 
in  the  tourists.  My  one  young  man  was  half  French,  half 

His  family  were  all  French  in  speech  and  habit  and 
I  used  to  be  really  terrified  to  go  there  for  meals.  I  still  only 
half  understood  conversation  in  French  unless  it  was  di- 
rected straight  at  me.  My  own  answers  were  so  full  of  the 
slang  I'd  picked  up  from  Monsieur  Doret  that  every  time 
I  opened  my  mouth,  I  got  a  laugh  or  a  look  of  horror  from 
my  hostess.  I  was  painfully  shy. 

So  I  took  to  guide  books  and  French  architecture  and 
gave  myself  a  course  on  Saturdays  and  Sundays,  walking 
around  museums,  hunting  up  odd  bits  of  Romanesque  sculp- 
ture on  the  corners  of  dilapidated  old  churches  in  distant 
corners  of  Paris.  It  filled  up  time.  I've  forgotten  most  of  it 
and  I  doubt  if  it  did  me  any  good.  I  have  just  never  been  able 
to  distinguish  Louis  XIV  from  Louis  XV  furniture. 

The  burden  of  my  life  was  finances.  I  had  500  francs 
a  month  from  Doret.  I  had  about  $25  a  month  from  writ- 
ing for  the  newspaper  at  home  and  the  department  store  in 
Wilkes-Barre.  It  all  came  to  some  1,200  francs,  the  exchange 
being  about  25  francs  to  the  dollar. 


For  the  average  French  working  girl,  that  was  riches. 
The  sewing  girls  got  300  francs  a  month  for  working  some 
forty-eight  hours  a  week.  The  other  salesgirls  in  our  shop 
had  about  800  francs  a  month  with  commissions.  I  was  never 
able  to  come  out  right  on  my  1,200.  I  had  to  have  a  room 
with  central  heat  and  running  water.  It  cost  me  700  francs  a 
month.  It  was  madness,  but  it  was  clean,  large,  reasonably 
livable.  The  bed  was  set  into  an  alcove  in  the  wall  with  cur- 
tains so  I  didn't  get  any  air  at  night  but  it  could  look  like  a 
living  room.  I  had  a  little  closet  with  the  running  water. 
Baths  were  3  francs  each.  It  is  possible  to  keep  clean  without 

I  made  my  breakfast  on  a  sterno,  had  my  lunch  free  at 
the  shop.  Most  of  my  dinners  I  ate  in  the  Foyer  Feminine, 
a  sort  of  French  Y.W.C.A.,  where  there  was  a  cafeteria  and 
I  could  get  a  meal  for  a  couple  of  francs,  less  than  ten  cents. 
I  should  have  managed  but  I  never  quite  did.  The  reason 
was  that  every  time  I  got  a  hundred  francs  ahead,  I  went  out 
and  bought  myself  ninety-nine  francs'  worth  of  good  food  in 
an  expensive  restaurant.  So  most  of  the  time  I  had  about  five 
francs  between  me  and  my  diamond  ring. 

I  didn't  have  time  to  get  bored  with  Doret's.  After  I'd 
mastered  the  copying  business  and  my  French,  Madame  Ellis 
stepped  into  the  breach.  She  took  to  chatting  with  me  in  the 
office  more  and  more  often.  Finally  she  offered  me  a  job. 
Would  I  like  to  sketch,  during  the  next  buying  season,  for 
her  New  York  manufacturer? 

The  question  meant  one  thing  to  me.  I  would  get  into 
all  the  couturiers'  houses  and  see  their  collections.  To  Ma- 
dame Ellis  and  her  boss,  Mr.  Weinstock,  it  meant  something 
much  more  important. 

The  situation  among  American  buyers  in  Paris  during 
the  years  I  worked  there  was  very  simple.  As  a  buyer  of 


expensive  French  models  for  American  mass  production, 
you  stole  what  you  could  and  bought  what  you  had  to.  Al- 
most every  important  buyer  took  to  the  first  showing  of  every 
couturier  a  sketcher.  The  sketcher  was  ostensibly  an  assistant 
buyer.  Her  real  job  was  to  remember  as  many  of  the  models 
as  possible  and  subsequently  sketch  them  for  the  buyer  to 
copy  in  New  York  later. 

The  sketching  business  was  a  very  lucrative  one  for  a 
young  woman  living  in  Paris.  The  buyer  who  took  you  in 
bought,  automatically,  every  sketch  you  could  make.  I  was 
paid  $1.50  a  sketch  by  Weinstock  and  Co. 

Besides  the  ten  really  important  couturiers,  there  were  at 
least  ten  others  of  minor  importance.  Each  couturier  shows 
two  major  collections  of  clothes  each  year,  in  August  and 
February.  Then  there  are  the  mid-season  small  collections 
in  November  and  April.  November  is  advance  spring,  April, 
advance  fall.  The  less  important  houses  show  first,  and  the 
openings,  first  showings,  continue  over  a  three  weeks'  period, 
ending  with  the  most  important  houses,  in  those  days,  Patou, 
Vionnet,  Chanel. 

A  good  sketcher  can  average  fifteen  accurate  sketches 
per  collection.  The  sketches  are  not  made  at  the  collection, 
of  course.  It  is  entirely  a  question  of  memory,  assisted  by 
whatever  notes  one  can  make  at  the  showing  without  attract- 
ing the  attention  of  the  salespeople.  Having  seen  the  clothes 
and  made  the  notes,  the  sketcher  rushes  home  to  draw  the 
dresses.  Since  the  buyer  does  not  buy  at  the  opening,  but 
returns  later  for  that  purpose,  the  sketcher  has  a  second 
chance  to  see  the  clothes  in  which  the  buyer  is  interested  and 
afterwards  can  correct  the  sketch. 

As  Madame  Ellis  explained  to  me,  Weinstock  would  buy 
the  entire  300  sketches,  netting  me  $450.  And  that  was  not 
all.  Through  her,  I  could  contact  buyers  who  were  not  for- 


tunate  enough  to  have  their  own  sketchers.  I  might  sell  them 
copies  of  the  original  designs  and  garner  in  another  couple 
of  hundred  dollars. 

As  a  sketcher  becomes  known  to  the  buyers,  they  leave 
her  blanket  orders  for  a  hundred  sketches  at  a  time  of  the 
openings  which  they  do  not  come  to  Paris  to  see.  Few  buyers 
came  for  the  mid-season  collections.  It  was  possible  to  make 
as  much  as  a  thousand  dollars  in  the  three  weeks  of  the 
openings.  Since  one  could  live  in  comparative  luxury  on 
$100  a  month  in  Paris  in  1926,  and,  as  a  sketcher,  had  a 
chance  to  earn  between  $500  and  $1,000  every  four  months, 
it  was  a  perfect  existence  financially. 

Between  buying  seasons,  one  could  rest  and  travel  on 
the  ill-gotten  gains.  As  an  embryo  designer,  the  opportunity 
to  see  all  the  work  of  the  Paris  couturiers  was  unquestion- 
ably my  greatest  desire.  The  desire  was  so  great  that  I  did 
not  for  one  moment  consider  the  ethics  of  the  matter.  I  had 
come  to  Paris  for  one  thing:  to  learn  about  designing  clothes. 
I  was  convinced,  then  and  now,  the  best  way  to  learn  was  by 
working  in  the  field.  And  besides  it  was  the  only  practical 
way  for  me.  I  must  support  myself  to  my  education. 

I  accepted  Madame  Ellis'  offer  and  got  my  second  lesson 
in  how  to  acquire  French  designs  at  something  less  than  re- 
tail price.  I  met  the  American  buyers. 

At  the  beginning  of  every  new  season  in  Parisian  dress- 
making, the  city  is  flooded  with  dress  buyers  from  all  over 
the  world.  There  were  fewer  American  than  others,  German, 
English,  Dutch,  South  American.  I  dealt  only  with  the  Amer- 
icans. I  suppose  the  rest  of  them  had  their  sketchers  too. 

The  American  dress  buyers  were  of  two  categories,  those 
who  bought  for  department  stores,  and  for  the  manufactur- 
ers. Nowadays,  Paris  buying  is  relatively  unimportant  to 
the  department  store.  They  rely  on  the  manufacturers  to 


buy  for  them.  In  the  halcyon  days  before  1929,  everybody 

The  department  store  buyer  had  an  allowance  which 
varied  with  the  size  of  her  department  and  the  importance  of 
her  store.  Many  such  buyers  actually  bought  only  four  or 
five  dresses  a  season.  They  came  mainly  to  get  the  new 
fashion  trends  at  first  hand  as  a  guide  to  later  buying  from 
manufacturers  in  New  York.  I  think  the  biggest  store  buyers 
in  those  days  were  Bergdorf  Goodman  and  Hattie  Carnegie. 
They  probably  bought  fifty  to  seventy-five  models  at  least. 

The  big  houses  charge  around  $200  a  model.  There  was 
the  duty  to  pay  getting  it  into  the  United  States.  There  were 
the  sizable  traveling  expenses  of  the  buyers.  It  is  safe  to 
assume  that  each  dress  cost  $400  in  toto,  so  that  an  impor- 
tant buyer  spent  between  twenty  and  thirty  thousand  dollars 
a  season. 

One  can  easily  understand  what  an  evil  day  it  was  for 
the  French  when  the  department  stores  realized  that  buying 
models  was  not  necessary  for  them.  Of  course,  Carnegie 
and  Bergdorf  and  many  other  specialty  shops  still  buy  a 
good  many  models,  but  they  have  cut  down  considerably. 
They  cannot  sell  for  $250  what  a  manufacturer  has  copied 
for  $25. 

The  big  manufacturing  houses  bought  from  twenty-five 
to  fifty  models.  They,  too,  have  cut  down  on  the  number. 
There  are  certain  people  who  buy  a  large  number  of  models 
and  afterward  rent  them  out  to  manufacturers  to  copy  in 
New  York.  It  is  not  necessary  to  spend  thirty  thousand  dol- 
lars to  know  what  the  French  are  designing  or  to  make 
copies  of  it. 

But  1926  gave  no  hint  of  the  impending  disaster.  The 
buyers  came  in  dozens.  Ours  came  toward  the  end  of  Jan- 


Mr.  Weinstock  was  a  large,  gray-haired,  rather  dapper 
gentleman,  owner  of  one  of  the  largest  and  best  expensive- 
dress  manufacturing  houses  in  New  York.  He  made  after- 
noon and  evening  clothes  which  sold  wholesale  about  $89.50, 
retail  around  $175.  With  him  he  had  two  designers.  One  of 
them,  a  roundish  lady  in  her  forties,  had  been  with  the  firm 
for  ten  years.  The  other  designer  was  a  snappy  young  Italian, 
rather  chic  and  definitely  attractive. 

Their  great  task  was  to  see  all  the  new  clothes  in  Paris. 
Of  these  they  would  buy  about  fifty.  The  two  designers  would 
take  all  the  ideas  they  could  garner  in.  I  would  provide  them 
with  as  many  sketches  as  was  humanly  possible. 

Fortunately  for  me  in  my  new  job,  the  first  week  or  so 
of  a  buying  season  is  easy.  Only  the  unimportant  houses 
are  showing.  They  are  not  in  a  position  to  be  rude  to  buyers 
who  see  their  clothes  and  don't  buy.  They  are  not  in  a  posi- 
tion to  stop  sketchers  from  taking  a  good  many  notes. 

All  the  houses  knew  perfectly  well  that  one  in  every 
eight  people  at  an  opening  was  a  sketcher.  The  sketchers 
were  all  young,  not  particularly  well  dressed.  A  sketcher  has 
a  special  photographic  way  of  looking  at  a  dress,  engraving 
its  image  on  her  mind,  marking  her  program  a  little  too 
freely.  In  the  small  shops,  we  were  allowed  to  ply  our  out- 
rageous trade  because,  after  all,  what  difference  did  it  make? 
The  buyers  would  buy  a  dress  even  if  we  did  steal  six  others. 
It  was  worth  it. 

The  big  couturiers  made  a  decided  effort  to  catch  us. 
However,  if  Mr.  Weinstock  was  buying  six  dresses  at  Patou, 
it  was  a  ticklish  business,  in  the  face  of  a  $1,200  order,  to 
risk  insulting  the  wrong  person.  They  had  to  catch  us  red- 
handed  which  seldom  happened. 

The  season  may  have  started  off  easily,  but  it  rose  to 
a  nerve-racking  pitch  in  the  last  week.  One  after  another 


the  big  couturiers  opened  their  doors  and  showed  their  hun- 
dreds of  new  designs  to  the  rapacious  buyers. 

On  Tuesday,  at  ten  A.M.,  I  would  meet  the  Weinstock 
group  at  Premet.  There  I  was  planted  between  the  two  de- 
signers. Every  time  one  of  them  wanted  a  dress  sketched, 
she'd  poke  me  in  the  ribs  with  her  elbow.  I'd  settle  my  eyes 
on  the  dress  and  leave  them  there  until  the  mannequin  who 
wore  it  had  made  her  last  turn,  her  final  flip  of  the  fanny. 

Then  I'd  carefully  make  an  identifying  note  beside  the 

number  of  that  dress  on  my  program.  "No.  23 Champs 

Elysees,"  the  program  would  say.  I'd  say  "Bl . .  4  bts  sq 
nk."  meaning  black  dress  with  four  buttons  down  one  side  of 
a  square  neck. 

After  that  I  would  very  carefully  not  look  at  anything 
until  I  got  another  poke  in  the  ribs.  I'd  just  sit  and  say  over 
and  over  to  myself,  "Black  wool  crepe  with  four  six-inch 
pleats  on  the  left  hip,  patent  leather  belt  with  snail  buckle, 
square  neck  quite  high  with  a  pleated  ruffle  on  it,"  and  so  on. 
Amazingly  enough,  hours  later,  it  would  all  come  back  to 

The  minute  the  Premet  showing  finished,  I'd  dive  into 
a  taxi  and  go  home.  There,  with  a  glass  of  milk  for  lunch, 
I'd  draw  up  the  notes.  Then,  into  another  taxi  and  so  to 
Lanvin  at  2:30.  After  Lanvin,  5:00,  back  to  Premet  to  look 
over  the  clothes  while  the  buyers  bought  one  or  two.  By 
seven,  I'd  be  home  again,  correcting  the  Premet  sketches  and 
making  drawings  of  the  notes  on  Lanvin. 

By  7:30, 1  must  be  out  again  with  a  book  containing  the 
finished  sketches  from  the  day  before.  If  I  didn't  catch  the 
buyers  while  they  were  dressing  for  an  evening  of  gaiety,  I 
never  would. 

Into  the  Crillon.  "May  I  come  up,  Mrs.  Morovitz?"  Of 


course.  None  of  them  ever  passed  up  a  chance  to  get  another 
sketch  of  a  dress  they  wanted  but  hadn't  bought. 

"I  have  the  sketches  from  Callot,  Mrs.  Morovitz."  She'd 
look  them  over,  order  four  or  five.  Then,  "I  hope,  Miss 
Hawes,  that  you'll  get  a  good  set  from  Patou  tomorrow." 

"Of  course,  Mrs.  Morovitz.  Today  I  got  Premet  and  Lan- 
vin.  I'll  bring  them  in  to  you  tomorrow  night." 

"Oh,  well,  why  don't  you  wait  and  bring  them  the  next 
day  along  with  the  Patou  sketches.  There  isn't  a  boat  going 
until  Thursday."  The  sketches  were  sent  out  on  every  fast 
boat,  giving  the  left-at-home  designers  something  to  work  on. 

From  Mrs.  Morovitz,  I'd  go  on  to  two  or  three  other 
hotels  and  other  buyers.  Finally,  after  a  beer  and  a  ham 
sandwich  at  the  corner  bistro,  home  again.  Home,  at  10:30 
P.M.,  to  sit  down  and  make  thirty  finished  sketches,  the  notes 
from  Premet,  corrected,  those  from  Worth,  left  over  from 
the  Monday  afternoon  showing.  Into  bed  by  two  in  the 

Ten-thirty  found  me  repeating  the  pattern  at  Paquin. 
two-thirty  saw  us  breathlessly  waiting  a  major  event.  Jean 
Patou  was  opening. 

Patou's  openings  were  gigantic.  His  showrooms  were 
vast,  delicately  Louis  something-or-other,  and  jammed  with 
the  united  buying  strength  of  the  world.  We  sat  with  our 
backs  to  the  long  and  tightly  closed  windows.  The  Place 
Vendome  lay  peacefully  without.  Within,  the  haze  of  ciga- 
rette smoke  became  thicker  and  thicker  as  Patou  poured  out 
his  new  elegance,  his  new  colors,  his  champagne. 

Patou's  openings  were  pie  for  me.  I  took  a  back  seat, 
which  meant  there  were  rows  of  people  between  me  and  the 
clothes  and  the  prying  eyes  of  any  saleslady.  There  was  no 
need  for  any  rib-poking  indication  of  what  I  was  to  sketch. 


I  was  to  sketch  the  Fords.  A  Ford  is  a  dress  which  everyone 

Patou  decided  in  advance  what  models  were  to  be  Fords. 
His  showmanship  was  perfect  and  unique  among  the  cou- 
turiers.  He  put  Fords  on  six  at  a  time,  all  alike  in  line  and 
cut,  different  in  color.  This,  Mesdames,  is  No.  46.  Here  are 
six  of  them.  You  will  each  order  this  dress.  You  will  all  go 
home  and  make  six  thousand  more. 

My  job  was  to  get  all  the  Fords  down  cold.  There  were 
at  least  thirty  to  a  Patou  collection  and  Weinstock  wouldn't 
buy  more  than  eight.  The  rest  might  be  by  Patou,  but  they 
were,  for  Mr.  Weinstock,  out  of  Hawes.  From  my  sheltered 
position,  I  took  elaborate  notes  and  sometimes  even  sketched. 

Between  Fords,  I  surveyed  the  buyers.  It  was  a  sight 
which  never  ceased  to  shock  me.  These  two  hundred  men 
and  women  I  saw  getting  tipsy  were  the  people  who  picked 
America's  clothes. 

There  was  not,  in  the  entire  gathering,  one  woman  of 
style,  not  a  male  or  a  female  who  was  distinguishable  from 
the  other  one  hundred  and  ninety-nine.  Of  mink  coats,  there 
were  plenty,  of  diamonds,  a  sufficient  number,  and  not  a  few 
of  them  real.  There  was  a  vast  accumulation  of  silver  fox 
across  rows  of  lumpy  laps  which  had  a  tendency  to  let  hand- 
bags slide  down,  over  thickish  ankles,  to  Patou's  polished 
floor.  Here  and  there  was  Fashion  rampant,  usually  in  black 
with  white  at  the  neck  and  a  droopy  hat  from  Rose  Descat, 
banal,  boring,  slim-ankled  and  thin-nosed. 

When  a  Ford  appeared,  all  the  minks  and  foxes  throbbed 
a  little.  Descat  hats  leaned  over  to  graying  sleek  heads  like 
Mr.  Weinstock's.  Whispers. 

"Mamsel!  Your  number.  Come  over  here,  Mamsel." 
Mutters.  Bergdorf 's  buyer  took  that  number.  Carnegie  took 


that  number.  Lord  and  Taylor  took  that  number.  Macy's 
took  that  number.  Weinstock  took  that  number. 

When  you  go  to  an  opening,  you  are  given  a  printed 
program  with  the  number  and  name  of  each  dress.  As  the 
clothes  glide  by,  you  check  the  numbers  which  interest  you. 
Maybe  you  want  to  buy  the  dress.  Maybe  you  just  want  to 
have  another  look  at  that  sleeve.  Maybe  you  want  Elizabeth 
Hawes  to  have  a  good  hard  look  at  it  so  she'll  be  sure  to  get 
that  sketch  accurate. 

Every  buyer  has  a  certain  saleswoman.  As  the  buyer 
leaves  after  the  first  showing,  she  gives  the  numbers  she  has 
selected  to  her  saleswoman.  An  appointment  is  made  for  the 
buyer  to  come  back,  look  over  her  numbers,  buy — buy  or 
look  again. 

Getting  out  of  Patou's  after  an  opening,  into  the  serenity 
of  the  Paris  dusk  was  to  drop  ten  years  from  your  life,  and 
you  needed  an  extra  ten  years  for  the  next  day.  The  next  day 
came  Chanel. 

Chanel,  the  battle  cry  of  the  world  of  fashion  for  nearly 
a  decade.  One  had  to  have  tickets  of  admission  for  all  im- 
portant openings.  For  the  Chanel  opening,  they  were  at  a 
premium.  She  had  two  small  salons  and  that  was  that.  If  you 
weren't  a  big  enough  buyer,  you  couldn't  get  in.  Weinstock 
bought  as  many  as  ten  dresses  a  season  so  we  all  got  in. 

We  got  in,  our  hats  over  one  ear,  our  coats  half  pulled 
off  our  backs.  We  drove  our  way  through  a  mob  of  screaming 
men  and  women  who  filled  the  rue  Cambon  with  their  wail- 
ing. They  were  wailing  because  they  didn't  have  any  tickets 
and  Chanel  was  in  a  position  to  be  firm. 

We  planted  ourselves  in  the  front  row  and  I  knew  that 
at  last  I  was  up  against  it.  None  of  your  Patou  circus  atmos- 
phere. No  liquor.  Nothing  but  very  tall  saleswomen  posted 
in  every  corner,  overlooking  the  crowd,  fixing  their  icy  stares 


on  every  little  sketcher  and  every  mink-coated  buyer  alike. 
No  long  program  to  write  on.  Just  a  small  slip  of  paper.  No 
long  looks  at  the  models.  They  simply  flew  in  and  out. 

When  I  stole  designs  from  the  French  dressmakers,  it 
was,  originally,  a  game  which  I  developed  between  me  and 
the  mannequin.  Her  part  was  to  try  and  get  the  dress  out 
of  the  room  before  I  could  master  the  cut  of  it.  My  part  was 
to  digest  its  intricacies  without  missing  a  seam  or  a  button. 
I  was  good.  By  the  time  I'd  finished  my  second  season  of 
sketching,  I  could  have  designed  you  as  pretty  a  Chanel  as 
the  master  herself. 

But  swiping  her  designs  accurately  was  violent  mental 
exercise.  If  you  made  any  more  moves  with  your  pencil  than 
enough  to  write  the  equivalent  of  a  number,  someone  sud- 
denly leaned  over  your  shoulder  and  grabbed  your  paper 
out  of  your  hand.  And  these  were  the  sketches  the  buyers 
wanted  most. 

After  a  Chanel  opening,  you  didn't  wait  until  the  next 
day  to  go  back  and  buy.  You  made  a  date  for  the  first  hour 
you  could  get  and  were  taken  in  relation  to  your  buying 
power.  The  showing  finished  about  five  and  we  were  back 
at  seven,  after  cocktails  at  the  Ritz  Bar  for  the  buyers  and 
my  usual  dash  home  to  draw  the  notes. 

Chanel's  success  was  one  of  the  things  that  helped  drive 
me  out  of  the  sketching  business.  I  never  had  any  great  re- 
spect, to  put  it  mildly,  for  the  buyers  who  employed  me. 
They  knew  what  they  had  to  do  and  they  done  it.  I  knew  I 
wanted  to  see  clothes  and  I  saw  them. 

The  totally  mad  desire  which  filled  the  world  for  Chanel's 
designs  gave  rise  to  a  new  angle  in  stealing  them.  When  we 
went  back  to  Chanel  after  the  opening  to  buy,  my  employers 
shut  me  up  in  a  fitting  room.  They  posted  one  of  the  gang  at 
the  door  and  the  two  others  went  out  foraging. 


The  showrooms  were  a  madhouse.  Clothes  were  lying 
in  tired  piles  on  every  chair.  Harassed  salespeople  were 
dashing  about,  telling  their  assistants  for  the  love  of  heaven 
to  find  No.  234.  The  minute  anyone  heard  someone  else 
asking  for  No.  234,  every  buyer  in  the  place  asked  for  it 
too.  They  were  always  afraid  they'd  miss  a  "good  number." 
If  you  missed  a  good  number,  when  you  got  home  your  boss 
said  to  you,  "For  what  do  I  send  you  to  Paris?  That  you 
should  pass  up  that  black  satin  at  Chanel!" 

Weinstock's  employes  weren't  passing  anything  up.  Prac- 
tically every  time  there  was  a  wild  hunt  for  a  number,  it 
was  being  held  up  in  front  of  me  in  the  fitting  room.  I  was 
sitting  comfortably  on  a  chair,  guarded  from  without,  sketch- 
ing Chanels  without  having  to  play  any  game.  We  got  away 
with  practically  the  whole  collection. 

Then,  carried  away  by  their  success,  one  of  the  buyers 
began  stuffing  bunches  of  samples  into  her  mink  pockets. 
The  other  one  tore  fringe  off  all  the  fringed  dresses  so  she 
could  have  it  copied  in  New  York.  Finally  one  of  them  stole 
a  belt  off  a  dress. 

My  buyers  were  no  exceptions  to  the  rule.  The  next  sea- 
son at  Chanel's,  no  belt  was  ever  brought  into  a  fitting  room 
with  a  dress. 

I  made  a  lot  of  money  off  Chanel  sketches  that  season. 
I  finally  contracted  to  do  another  season  of  sketching  for 
Weinstock,  four  months  later.  But  my  heart  wasn't  in  it.  I 
started  off  with  a  chip  on  my  shoulder  and  was  definitely 
uncooperative.  I  made  bad  sketches  and  left  out  as  many 
lines  as  I  dared. 

The  French  were  making  beautiful  clothes  and,  heaven 
knows,  I  was  in  a  position  to  believe  that  all  women  must 
want  them.  I  began  to  feel  that  the  clothes  should  be  paid 


One  day,  during  my  third  and  last  season  of  sketching, 
the  summer  of  1926, 1  had  an  appointment  to  meet  my  buy- 
ers at  Miller  Soeurs.  I  got  there  early.  Miller  Soeurs  was 
originally  a  copy  house.  After  they'd  copied  for  a  while,  they 
got  so  they  could  design  well  enough  themselves  so  they 
set  up  a  model  house  of  their  own. 

When  I  got  there,  they  just  took  one  look  at  me.  (I'd 
been  there  the  two  previous  seasons,  of  course,  with  Wein- 
stock.)  They  said,  "We're  sorry,  but  we  won't  let  you  in." 
I  said,  "You're  perfectly  right,"  and  left,  feeling  much 

When  I  met  my  buyers  at  Lelong's  that  afternoon,  they 
raised  unholy  hell  with  me.  They  said  I  had  betrayed  them 
and  whatnot.  I'd  gotten  far  beyond  the  point  of  caring  what 
they  thought,  but  I  found  I  had  finished  with  the  business  of 
stealing  designs. 

Not  that  it  mattered  to  anybody.  There's  always  some 
new  young  American  girl  who  looks  innocent  enough  to  be 
taken  into  Chanel's  under  the  guise  of  an  assistant  buyer. 

The  French  have  tried  to  stop  the  flagrant  sketching  and 
stealing  at  the  openings.  In  1930,  they  raided  the  apartment 
of  one  of  the  big  sketch  vendors  and  threw  her  into  jail  for 
a  few  minutes.  And  they  have  tightened  up  considerably  on 
who  gets  into  openings. 

Today  a  new  buyer  may  be  admitted  to  the  house  of 
any  couturier  of  importance  once  if  she  is  properly  accred- 
ited. If  she  doesn't  buy,  she  may  not  go  in  the  next  season. 
She  must  buy  one  thing  to  gain  readmittance. 

As  a  brand  new  young  manufacturing  designer  explained 
to  me,  after  making  her  first  trip  from  Seventh  Avenue  to 
Paris  and  the  openings  in  1937,  "You  see,  all  you  have  to 
buy  is  one  blouse  and  that's  only  $50.  It's  worth  it."  She 
knew  how  to  sketch  herself. 



•  Q_s  te 

. ,  news 

MY  FIRST  sketching  season  ended  in  February,  1926.  I 
went  into  it  penniless  and  came  out  with  $500  in  the 
Bankers  Trust.  I'd  been  in  Paris  eight  months  and  was  at 
last  solvent.  I  still  believed  firmly  that  all  beautiful  clothes 
were  made  in  the  house  of  the  French  couturiers  and  that  all 
women  wanted  them. 


I  took  one  fifth  of  my  capital  and  invested  it  in  a  lovely 
little  suit  at  Callot  where  I  got  a  special  price.  I  got  a  spe- 
cial price  because  I  had  purchased  things  there  for  Madame 
Doret.  My  saleslady  at  Callot  thought  they  were  for  my 
mother.  She  always  felt  I  should  have  something  for  myself 
so  I  took  advantage  of  her  innocence. 

Subsequently  I  dressed  myself  at  Callot  for  some  time, 
getting  some  beautiful  bargains  in  stylish  clothes  which 
lasted  me  for  years.  I  had  an  extra  fondness  for  Callot  be- 
cause the  American  buyers  found  her  out  of  date  and  un- 
fashionable. She  was.  She  just  made  simple  clothes  with 
wonderful  embroidery.  Embroidery  wasn't  chic. 

The  occasion  of  my  extravagance  was  my  mother's  com- 
ing to  Europe.  I  hadn't  had  a  new  rag  to  my  back  since  I  left 
America.  I  met  my  mother  at  Cherbourg  the  first  of  March, 
dressed  in  my  new  suit  and  feeling  very  fine.  I  proceeded  to 
initiate  her  into  life  as  I  had  seen  it  in  Paris,  including  the 
food  at  the  Foyer  Feminine. 

She  proceeded  to  initiate  me  into  taking  taxis,  eating 
good  food,  taking  a  bath  every  day,  and  otherwise  enjoying 
the  fine  things  of  life.  We  traveled  around  Normandy  and 

When  she  left  I  still  had  most  of  my  $400.  I  also  had 
reacquired  a  desire  for  an  American  standard  of  living.  An- 
other buying  season  was  knocking  at  the  door,  mid-season 
April,  1926,  in  the  shape  of  Madame  Ellis,  who  expected  me 
to  sketch  for  Weinstock. 

I  sketched,  filled  many  outside  orders.  I  banked  $750  on 
May  first  and  hated  myself  a  little  and  all  American  buyers 
much  more. 

The  minute  that  season  finished,  I  leapt  onto  a  bicycle 
and  spent  three  weeks  touring  Brittany  with  Bettina  Wilson. 


As  a  foil  for  the  dressmaking  racket,  it  proved  eminently 

All  you  can  take  with  you  on  a  bicycle  trip  is  a  sweater, 
an  extra  set  of  underclothes,  and  a  toothbrush.  You  have  a 
perfect  and  intimate  view  of  the  scenery  coupled  with  just 
the  right  amount  of  exercise.  At  the  end  of  your  easy-going 
thirty  miles  a  day,  you  invariably  find  that  delectable  supper 
and  wonderful  bed  for  which  the  French  are  so  justly  famous. 

At  the  end  of  three  weeks,  you  are  exceedingly  healthy 
and  so  utterly  filthy  that  a  return  to  the  fashionable  life  is 
all  you  ask.  True,  after  ten  months  in  Paris,  I  was  not  yet 
fed  up  on  clothes,  style,  fashion,  the  Ritz  Bar,  Montmartre 
or  the  Bois  de  Boulogne. 

The  buyers  appeared  to  me  to  be  a  horrible  phenomenon 
created  by  God  to  disgust  me  and  all  the  French  couturiers. 
I  saw  that  it  was  worth  it  to  the  French.  Obviously,  it  was 
worth  it  to  me.  Otherwise  I  should  not  have  had  my  bicycle 

After  the  bicycle  trip,  I  still  had  time  and  money  to  get 
myself  to  Italy  where  I  joined  up  with  an  old  college  friend. 
We  were  motored  from  Florence  to  Venice  and  the  lakes. 
We  ended  in  Geneva  where  I  enjoyed  my  first  look  at  the 
Council  of  the  League  of  Nations  in  action.  I  found  I  was 
getting  like  the  French,  skeptical. 

Back  in  my  same  800-franc  Paris  room,  I  found  myself 
with  a  few  hundred  francs  and  my  diamond  ring.  It  was  the 
middle  of  July,  1926.  The  buyers  were  about  to  descend 
again.  I  decided  to  have  another  season  of  sketching,  re- 
plenish my  finances. 

While  flitting  from  opening  to  opening  like  a  bird  of 
prey,  I  developed  an  idea  for  the  future.  The  future  was 
definitely  still  Paris  to  me.  I  loved  it.  I  had  acquired  friends, 
both  male  and  female.  I  wanted  to  travel  more  in  Europe. 


Being  thrown  out  of  Miller  Soeurs  having  brought  me  up 
sharp  on  the  business  of  stealing  sketches,  I  must  find  another 
means  of  support. 

My  plan  involved  going  back  to  New  York  to  start  it. 
The  idea  was  very  simple.  I  saw  that  there  was  only  one  set 
of  fashion  news  from  Paris.  I  had  been  feeding  bits  of  it 
to  the  store  in  Wilkes-Barre.  They  liked  and  used  it.  They 
sent  me  copies  of  ads  which  said  that  their  Paris  representa- 
tive told  them  everything  was  blue  this  season — "and  on 
our  fourth  floor  you  will  find  our  version  of  blue,  done  with 
the  new  flared  skirt  which  our  Paris  representative  tells  us 
is  all  the  rage." 

I  decided  that  there  must  be  hundreds  of  small  depart- 
ment  stores,  who  could  use  this  news,  who  had  no  direct 
contact  with  the  source  of  all  fashion.  I  couldn't  think  how 
they  ever  got  on  without  Paris  news  every  week.  I  figured 
that  a  service  could  be  syndicated  and  sold  to  such  stores  for 
a  reasonable  figure. 

With  no  further  knowledge  of  small  department  stores 
in  middle-sized  cities  than  my  brief  reporting  for  Wilkes- 
Barre,  I  built  up  my  idea,  went  back  to  New  York,  sold  it 
to  a  syndicate.  It  was  no  more  unreasonable  than  most  fash- 
ion reporting  ideas. 

It  took  me  three  months  to  get  my  syndicate.  I  kept  being 
sent  from  one  friend  on  a  newspaper  to  a  friend  on  a  mag- 
azine to  a  friend  in  a  store  to  a  friend  in  a  syndicate  to  another 
friend  in  another  syndicate.  All  one  really  requires  for  put- 
ting anything  over  is  enough  energy  and  resistance  to  keep 
on  plugging  the  idea.  Someone  will  eventually  fall. 

A  very  large  and  grandfatherly  gentleman  was  running 
a  syndicate  called  Cosmos.  He  gazed  down  upon  me  from 
his  great  height  and  bulk  and  listened  with  extraordinary 
interest.  He  was  syndicating  a  weekly  fashion  feature  from 


Paris.  It  was  a  story  with  pictures  which  went  to  the  Post  in 
New  York,  the  Detroit  Free  Press,  the  Baltimore  Sun  and 
other  papers  of  equal  standing. 

This  feature  was  being  run  by  a  boy  in  Paris  who,  I 
was  told,  was  doing  a  remarkable  job.  However,  it  was  too 
much  work  for  one  person.  The  boy  screamed  by  every  boat 
for  an  assistant.  Why  shouldn't  I  be  sent,  first  as  an  assistant, 
secondly  to  work  out  the  syndicate  store  service  idea? 

While  the  old  gentleman  considered  that  thought,  I  hap- 
pened into  the  newly  born  New  Yorker  office.  Lois  Long 
was  doing  their  fashion  column.  Lois  Long  went  to  Vassar. 
The  New  Yorker  had  no  Paris  fashion  news.  It  was  arranged 
in  the  twinkling  of  an  eye.  I  was  to  send  them  one  cable  a 
month  and  one  five  hundred  word  story.  For  this  I  would 
get  $150  a  month. 

The  Cosmos  Syndicate  seemed  greatly  impressed  by  this 
news.  He  hired  me.  I  was  a  fool.  I  figured  everything  in 
francs.  I  told  him  $25  a  week  would  be  plenty  until  we  got 
the  store  syndicate  started.  He  played  poor,  but  he  did  send 
me  back  to  Paris.  He  had  to.  I  didn't  have  a  nickel  left. 

I  returned  to  Paris  rich  enough  in  prospects  for  my  taste, 
anyway;  $250  a  month  was  around  7,000  francs,  twice  what 
a  French  midinette  gets  in  a  year.  Eagerly  I  sought  out  Syl- 
vestre,  my  boss,  the  other  employe  of  the  Cosmos  Syndicate. 

Sylvestre's  was  a  typical  Paris  fashion  idea.  Sylvestre 
was  a  typical  1926  Paris  fashion  reporter. 

What  Sylvestre  told  me  was  this:  He  was  half  French. 
He  knew  all  the  great  French  designers  intimately.  He  un- 
derstood chic  as  no  one  ever  had  before  or  since.  The  great 
designers  would  tell  him,  Sylvestre,  things  they  would  never 
tell  an  ordinary  reporter.  He  could  get  advance  information. 
He  could  obtain  sketches  never  given  out  to  any  other  re- 


This  is  the  usual  case  with  fashion  reporters  in  Paris. 
Each  one  has  some  magic  way  of  finding  out  what  no  one 
else  can.  Either  the  reporter  has  a  cousin  who  is  a  Duke  or 
a  rumor  floats  around  that  the  reporter  is  very  intimately 
connected  with  the  Count  de  Falderol.  Sometimes,  my  dear, 
they  say  that  certain  reporters  are  the  bastard  daughters  of 
English  peers.  Anyway,  no  Paris  fashion  reporter  is  quite 
an  ordinary  mortal.  One  couldn't  employ  just  humans  to  tell 
about  miracles. 

The  grains  of  truth  in  Sylvestre's  story  unfolded  them- 
selves to  me  in  the  next  month.  Sylvestre  was  half  French. 
Sylvestre  knew  Jenny  quite  well.  Jenny  was  a  couturier  who 
was  of  little  interest  to  the  fashion  world.  Sylvestre  knew 
the  manager  of  Redfern  well.  Redfern  was  about  dead.  Syl- 
vestre knew  Charlotte  intimately.  Charlotte  designed  for  the 
house  of  Premet.  Premet  had  nice  young  clothes  which  were 
of  no  particular  importance. 

The  first  day  I  met  Sylvestre,  he  gave  me  a  rendezvous 
at  some  hotel  on  the  Champs  Ely  sees  for  tea.  He  told  me  that 
everyone  was  going  to  wear  gray  that  season  and  that  this 
was  a  very  smart  hotel.  I  told  him  that  nobody  ever  went 
there  for  tea  and  besides  that,  gray  was  never  very  much 
worn  because  it  was  too  unbecoming. 

We  left  the  hotel  and  went  back  to  his  apartment  where 
we  drank  Jamaica  rhum  and  became  friends.  Sylvestre  was 
not  very  interested  in  the  store  project  but  he  took  no  time 
at  all  in  winding  me  into  his  newspaper  story. 

His  little  reporting  racket  was  perhaps  the  easiest  ever 
worked  out.  We  had  to  send  out  one  fashion  story  a  week. 
Each  story  was  about  one  designer  and  carried  with  it  six 
sketches.  We  got  absolutely  no  information  that  anyone  else 
couldn't  also  get. 

It  worked  this  way.  On  Monday  we  realized  that  a  fast 


boat  was  getting  off  Wednesday.  Sylvestre  called  whatever 
big  designer  we  had  next  on  the  list.  He  called  the  press 
agent  whom  he  had  already  contacted  and  to  whom  he  had 
explained  all,  mostly  how  he  was  the  most  important  news- 
paper person  in  Paris. 

The  press  agent  was  being  paid  to  get  his  designer  into 
the  papers  so  it  wasn't  very  difficult  for  him  to  lay  his  hand 
on  six  sketches.  It  was  particularly  easy  for  him  because 
Sylvestre  never  cared  what  sketches  we  got.  All  we  wanted 
was  six  of  them  with  explanations. 

I  would  go  around  and  pick  up  the  sketches  sometime 
Tuesday.  I  usually  rounded  into  Sylvestre's  apartment  late 
Tuesday  afternoon,  sketches  in  hand.  We  had  a  drink.  Then 
we  had  dinner.  Then  I  sat  down  at  the  typewriter  and  wrote 
two  news  columns  about  the  six  brand  new  things  in  question, 
things  which  may  have  been  designed  any  time  during  the 
past  four  months.  At  first  I  often  couldn't  see  anything  new 
about  them. 

Sylvestre  taught  me  to  observe  every  line  and  pocket. 
He  taught  me  that  everything  I  saw  was  new.  He  taught  me 
how  to  write  a  fine  lead  on  the  subtlety  of  Vionnet's  rhythmic 
line  or  the  delicate  softness  of  a  Jenny  gown.  In  the  begin- 
ning I  often  had  to  do  the  whole  thing  over  twice,  but  even- 
tually I  got  so  I  could  vomit  out  the  stories  in  an  hour  of  con- 
centrated hyperbole. 

After  that,  we  went  out  for  a  drink.  The  next  noon  I  got 
the  stuff  off  on  the  boat  train.  We  repeated  it  the  next  week. 
When  I  felt  forehanded,  I  got  several  stories  done  in  a  day 
and  left  town  for  a  couple  of  weeks. 

Once  we  decided  we  ought  to  go  to  the  Riviera.  Sylvestre 
knew  Frank  Harris  and  it  began  to  seem  that  our  reporting 
needed  a  new  note.  Frank  Harris  happened  not  to  be  at  his 
villa  near  Nice  and  we  really  didn't  have  much  money.  We 


spent  some  time  in  Marseilles  and  some  more  time  in  very 
cheap  night  clubs  in  Nice.  One  day  we  went  to  Monte  Carlo 
by  bus.  We  sent  quite  a  glowing  report  of  the  new  things  on 
the  Riviera  that  spring. 

Of  course,  if  you  are  a  conscientious  reporter,  you  don't 
behave  like  that.  You  get  up  in  the  morning  and  go  from  one 
hat  place  to  another  bag  place  to  the  Ritz  for  lunch.  You 
cultivate  the  right  people,  your  cousin  the  count,  or  your 
rich  friend  who  has  a  villa  in  Cannes. 

You  night-club  in  the  right  places.  You  follow  the  ponies 
to  the  races  and  the  chic  monde  all  over  the  lot,  from  London 
to  the  Lido.  And  you  suffer. 

The  minute  you  persuade  yourself  or  some  newspaper 
or  magazine  in  America  that  there  is  fashion  news  in  Paris 
or  anywhere  else  on  the  Continent  every  week,  you  are  in  for 
a  life  of  hell.  Unless  you're  blessed  with  a  good  healthy  im- 
agination and  no  inhibitions,  you  get  looking  like  all  other 
fashion  reporters  in  Paris. 

Most  of  them  are  quite  gaunt.  Their  skin  is  dry  and  they 
have  a  pinched  look  around  the  mouth.  They  are  the  dow- 
diest looking  bunch  imaginable.  They  don't  make  enough 
money  to  buy  expensive  clothes  and  there  isn't  anything  else 
in  France. 

Only  four  times  a  year  is  there  really  fashion  news  in 
Paris.  Two  of  those  times,  it's  big  news,  all  the  summer  or 
winter  clothes,  shoes,  hats,  bags,  jewelry  which  Paris  can 
think  up,  and  that's  plenty. 

The  other  two  times,  it's  mid-season  collections,  small 
fill-in  showings  of  advanced  spring  or  fall  clothes,  tossed  out 
for  foreign  buyers.  There  really  isn't  much  in  those  show- 
ings, but  the  clothes  are  new  and  one  can  legitimately  report 
them  as  news. 

In  between  times,  the  reporter  must  manufacture  brand 


new  fashion  ideas.  If  you  feel  like  it,  you  can  go  to  Biarritz 
or  Cannes  or  the  Lido  or  wherever  you  can  see  real,  live 
society  women  wearing  the  clothes  you  formerly  saw  and 
have  already  reported  from  the  previous  openings. 

You  can  report  it  all  over  again  as  something  to  scream 
over.  If  you're  at  all  bright,  you  know  perfectly  well  when 
you  see  the  clothes  on  the  mannequins  at  Chanel's  which 
ones  are  going  to  be  seen  later  at  different  resorts.  If  you 
want  to,  you  can  find  out  from  the  saleswomen  in  the  various 
dressmaking  houses  who  bought  what.  Then  all  you  have  to 
do  is  watch  the  society  columns  to  see  where  the  women  go 
and  report  them  there,  in  the  clothes. 

Even  if  you  go  all  the  places  and  do  all  the  things,  you 
are  still  faced  with  those  dreadful  weeks  when  the  chic  monde 
seems  to  have  evaporated.  The  couturiers  seem  to  have  bur- 
ied themselves.  It  rains.  There  is  nothing  new  under  the 

You  rewrite  old  columns  in  a  new  way.  You  find  eleven 
different  ways  of  telling  the  world  that  women  in  Paris  are 
wearing  two  silver  foxes  around  their  necks.  You  concen- 
trate on  details  to  such  an  extent  that  all  the  world  begins 
to  hinge  on  whether  The  Duchess  de  X  had  on  heels  an  inch 
high  or  one  and  a  half  inches  high. 

After  piling  it  on  thicker  and  thicker,  you  send  it  off 
to  your  newspaper  syndicate.  In  a  week  or  so,  all  the  women 
in  the  United  States  are  informed  of  the  major  events  in 
life.  They  are  left  in  no  doubt  but  that,  unless  they  can  get 
two  silver  foxes,  they  are  absolutely  out  of  fashion.  They 
are  bombarded  with  news  of  what  the  chic  monde  is  wearing 
for  bathing  at  the  Lido.  They  don't  know  where  the  Lido  is 
or  what  it  looks  like  and  they  go  to  Jones  Beach  every  Sun- 
day, wearing  whatever  kind  of  bathing  suit  Gimbel  chose 
to  provide  that  season. 


There  must  have  been  over  a  hundred  American  fashion 
reporters  in  Paris  in  1926.  Many  of  them  conscientiously 
sent  out  news  regularly  to  American  newspapers.  From  what 
I  see  now  and  again  in  the  news  columns,  a  lot  of  them  are 
still  there,  turning  out  the  same  stuff. 

However,  it  is  my  impression  that  the  American  news- 
paper situation  in  re  Paris  fashions  is  cleaning  itself  up. 
The  U.S.  newspapers  have  discovered  that  it  is  not  really 
good  business  for  them  to  have  in  their  columns  fashion  news 
about  things  which  can't  be  bought  on  the  spot.  They  now 
incline  toward  columns  with  a  little  box  at  the  bottom  saying 
that  if  you  will  write  in,  you  will  be  told  in  what  local  store 
the  item  mentioned  can  be  bought.  The  local  fashion  girls 
are  having  their  day. 

In  1926  there  were  many  Paris  offices  devoted  to  the 
business  of  sending  news  to  the  various  fashion  and  women's 
magazines  in  America.  Of  those,  Vogue  and  Harper9 s  Bazaar 
were  the  largest.  They  are  now  about  the  only  offices  left. 
They  have  a  unique  position  in  Paris,  being  recognized  as 
the  most  important  publicity  agents  the  French  can  use.  The 
French  couturiers  and  these  two  magazines  are  in  business 
together,  in  business  to  promote  chic  and  keep  the  world  of 
fashion  spinning. 

As  with  the  newspapers,  there  is  a  vast  difference  today 
in  the  amount  of  French  news  crowding  the  pages  of  Harper9 s 
Bazaar  and  Vogue.  In  the  late  '20's,  ninety  percent  of  the 
drawings  and  photographs  were  the  work  of  the  Parisian 
couturiers,  often  elaborate  creations,  which  nobody  ever 
wore  anywhere.  Now  those  pages  are  filled  only  with  such 
French  designs  as  actually  come  to  America  and  are,  for  the 
most  part,  manufactured  here.  Many  pages  in  both  magazines 
are  devoted  to  clothes  created  in  America  for  American  life. 

Many  of  the  offices  which  worked  from  '25  to  '29  for 


American  magazines  have  been  closed.  The  Ladies  Home 
Journal,  the  largest  woman's  magazine  in  the  United  States, 
now  has  no  Paris  office,  and  all  because  they  hired  a  very 
bright  lady  as  Fashion  Editor  about  1932. 

The  lady  had  worked  previously  for  a  department  store 
and  also  for  Harper's  Bazaar.  She  said  she  saw  no  reason 
why  the  Ladies  Home  Journal  should  maintain  an  expensive 
Paris  office.  She  said  that  magazine  catered  to  middle  class 
American  women  who  never  actually  saw  a  French  original 
design.  She  thought  her  public  was  interested  in  news  of 
what  existed  in  fashion  in  America,  whether  it  had  been  orig- 
inated in  Paris  or  on  Seventh  Avenue. 

In  1926,  however,  America  thought  it  needed  Paris  fash- 
ion news  and  Sylvestre,  myself,  and  a  hundred  others  were 
all  busy  supplying  the  need.  We  were  doing  our  best  to  build 
up  the  French  legend. 

When  I  had  thoroughly  mastered  the  business  of  writing 
Sylvestre's  column  for  him  so  that  he  had  literally  nothing  to 
do  but  draw  down  about  $200  a  week  from  the  syndicate,  I 
went  at  him  about  the  store  service.  I  explained  to  him  that 
all  the  small  department  stores  needed  to  know  directly  what 
was  going  on  in  the  big  center  of  fashion  and  that  we  were 
there  to  do  it. 

At  first  Sylvestre  wouldn't  bite,  but  as  he  began  to  see 
the  matter  in  terms  of  additional  royalties,  he  reflected. 

He  realized  that  he  and  only  he  could  get  confidential 
information  from  the  big  designers.  He  got  worried  about 
the  stores  not  realizing  the  fact.  Finally  he  became  so  in- 
trigued, he  told  me  to  go  ahead  and  work  out  the  form  and 
content  for  the  service.  He  would  go  to  America  to  see  that 
the  Cosmos  Syndicate  sold  it  properly. 

I,  therefore,  began  to  compile  short  reports  for  stores.  I 
made  thumbnail  sketches  and  resumeed  everything  weekly: 


shoes,  hats,  bags,  gloves,  belts,  clothes,  colors.  I  indicated 
what  was  very  new,  less  new,  going  out. 

Sylvestre  got  to  New  York  and  the  thing  began  to  sell. 
I  was  rather  harassed  because  I  had  to  continue  turning  out 
the  fashion  column  and  make  an  effort  to  cover  the  entire 
Paris  market  weekly  for  the  store  service.  It  wasn't  more 
than  a  full  time  job,  but  I  could  have  used  a  secretary. 

After  about  six  weeks,  Sylvestre  returned  triumphant. 
The  store  service,  my  brain  child,  had  been  sold  to  Lord  and 
Taylor.  Lord  and  Taylor  already  had  a  large  office  in  Paris 
with  plenty  of  employes  who  could  tell  them  all.  However, 
Sylvestre  had  convinced  them  about  his  private  resources. 

I  was  so  busy  being  appalled  by  Sylvestre's  salesman- 
ship to  Lord  and  Taylor,  I  forgot  that  some  small  stores  out  of 
New  York  had  bought  the  service,  too.  I  was  so  sick  of  writ- 
ing the  horrible  fashion  story  weekly,  I  decided  the  time  had 
come  for  action. 

My  action  was  quick.  I  found  that  Dorothy  Shaver,  a 
vice  president  of  Lord  and  Taylor,  was  in  Paris.  I  called 
upon  her  to  make  sure  my  ideas  on  the  matter  of  the  store 
service  were  right.  She  grimly  agreed  with  me  that  I  was 
correct.  It  was  nothing  for  Lord  and  Taylor.  I  thereupon 
gave  the  idea  to  Sylvestre  with  my  blessing  and  retired  from 
the  Cosmos  Syndicate. 

I  could  retire  gracefully  because  there  was  the  New 
Yorker.  One  hundred  and  fifty  dollars  a  month  was  enough  to 
live  on  until  something  else  came  along.  Writing  news  for  the 
New  Yorker  was  my  favorite  fashion  job  of  all  time.  Even  my 
nom  de  plume  now  gives  me  a  small  laugh.  "Parasite."  Some- 
one suggested  it  at  a  party  given  in  honor  of  a  brown  dress 
suit,  whose  I  don't  recall.  It  epitomized  the  whole  fashion 
business  much  better  than  I,  in  my  innocence,  realized. 


Anyone  who  has  ever  written  fashions  will,  I  am  sure, 
appreciate  what  it  means  to  be  allowed  to  write  with  no  em- 
broidery just  what  you  think  about  them.  Practically  nobody 
in  Paris  knew  I  wrote  for  the  New  Yorker.  I  never  used  it  as 
an  entree  to  see  the  collections  until  shortly  before  I  quit  the 

Not  a  soul  on  the  New  Yorker  ever  gave  me  a  kind  word 
during  the  three  years  I  sent  in  my  pieces.  On  the  other  hand, 
no  one  ever  complained.  The  advertising  department  never 
raised  its  ugly  head  and  said  that  if  I  thought  Patou  was  no 
designer,  I'd  better  keep  still  about  it  or  someone  would 
withdraw  his  advertising. 

After  burbling  for  the  New  York  Post,  the  Detroit  Free 
Press,  et  al.,  that  everything  was  divine,  glamorous,  chic, 
gorgeous,  as  Sylvestre  had  taught  me,  I  would  retire  to  the 
fastness  of  my  own  little  apartment  and  tell  the  New  Yorker 
readers  that  Molyneux  was  a  good  safe  designer  with  not 
too  much  originality;  that  Patou  thought  he'd  designed  a 
coat  if  he  put  enough  fox  fur  on  it;  that  Talbot  had  her  tongue 
in  her  cheek  when  she  made  baby  bonnets.  The  New  Yorker, 
ladies  and  gentlemen,  is  the  only  magazine  I  ever  saw  which 
had  the  guts  to  let  its  fashion  reporters  speak  their  minds.  I 
expressed  myself  freely  in  its  pages,  and  through  those  pages 
I  was  made  to  face  facts  from  time  to  time.  When  the  printed 
copy  of  the  magazine  came  to  me  in  Paris,  along  with  some 
of  my  reports,  I'd  read  L.L.'s  comments  on  the  new,  oh  so 
new,  things  I'd  written  up. 

Those  jersey  bathing  suits  which  took  my  eye  at  Biarritz 
existed  a  whole  year  ago  in  the  good  old  U.S.A.,  said  Miss 
Long.  Those  daisy  little  sandals  which  Dufeau  just  put  out 
were  shown  six  months  ago  in  Delman's.  Patou's  newest  ten- 


nis  dress  differed  very  little  from  one  of  Best  and  Co.  last 

Slowly  an  idea  began  to  penetrate  my  mind.  All  beauti- 
ful clothes  are  designed  in  the  houses  of  the  French  cou- 
turiers? Well. 




of  Qty 

A  FTER  clearing  my  head  of  the  Cosmos  Syndicate  by  dint 
jLJLof  some  very  fast  bicycling  in  Provence,  I  came  back  to 
Paris.  It  was  March,  1927. 1  had  acquired  an  apartment  and 
a  maid  and  was  actually  in  no  mood  to  live  only  on  the  New 
Yorker's  money. 


The  previous  fall  when  I  was  in  New  York,  I  had  come 
upon  a  very  conspicuous  box  in  the  New  York  Times  one 
Sunday.  R.  H.  Macy  was  advertising  for  a  Stylist  to  send  to 
their  Paris  office.  I  didn't  know  what  a  stylist  was,  but  I  knew 
I  wanted  a  job  in  Paris. 

The  ad  said  "Apply  by  letter  only."  I  decided  nothing 
would  be  lost  by  looking  up  a  Macy's  merchandising  man 
who  was  a  friend  of  a  friend  and  thereby  applying  in  person. 
I  arrived  bright  and  early  Monday  morning  at  Macy's  on 
Thirty-fourth  Street.  I  found  my  man.  He  turned  out  to  be 
an  old  schoolmate  of  Jack  Strauss. 

I  was  duly  introduced  to  Mr.  Strauss  who,  in  turn,  intro- 
duced me  to  one  Mr.  Meyer.  Mr.  Meyer  was  a  very  pleasant, 
small,  thin,  blue-eyed  and  speckled  German  about  forty-five. 
He  had  begun  his  career  as  a  ribbon  clerk  or  something 
equally  proverbial  in  Macy's.  He  had  risen  and  risen.  He 
had  decided,  finally,  to  retire. 

R.  H.  Macy  didn't  want  him  to  retire.  There  is  one  thing 
to  be  said  for  that  store,  if  they  want  you  badly,  they  arrange 
to  keep  you  somehow.  Money  for  the  salaries  of  Macy's  ex- 
ecutives is  plentiful.  They  arranged  a  compromise  with  Mr. 
Meyer  whereby,  since  he  wanted  to  live  in  Europe,  he  would 
take  a  part  time  job  overseeing  their  Paris  office. 

This  brought  up  the  fact  that  they  had  no  Paris  stylist. 
The  word  stylist  is  not  definable  because  styling  is  a  bastard 
art.  It  was  one  of  those  bright  thoughts  which  flowered  dur- 
ing the  great  prosperity.  The  department  stores  were  in  the 
money  and  their  thoughts  wandered  to  "good  taste." 

Of  course,  before  entering  wholeheartedly  into  any  such 
venture  as  actually  hiring  people  to  see  that  merchandise 
was  in  good  taste,  Macy's  would  normally  test  the  idea.  They 
made  many  studies  throughout  the  store.  They  tried  out  good 
taste  in  rugs  and  fabrics,  in  pocket-books  and  dresses.  Good 


taste  has  never  been  adequately  defined  by  anyone.  Macy's 
never  tried  to  define  it  to  me. 

They  simply  said  that  they  had  put  on  a  table  in  the  fabric 
department  several  bolts  of  material.  Some  were  in  good 
taste,  some  bad.  The  public  bought  out  the  material  in  good 
taste  first,  Macy's  said.  It  worked  that  way  in  all  depart- 
ments. Always  the  public  wanted  what  Macy's  conceived  of 
as  good  taste. 

The  truth  of  the  matter  was  very  simple.  Macy's  had 
been  doing  an  enormous  business  in  cheap  merchandise  for 
generations.  They  employed  a  large  number  of  buyers  who 
had  been  there  for  years.  The  buyers  were  in  a  rut.  They 
supplied  the  public  with  the  same  sort  of  thing  they  had 
bought  fifteen  years  ago.  Times  change  and  the  public  taste 
changes  along  with  them. 

Macy's  buyers  had  been  bringing  home  the  bacon  in 
profits  all  those  years.  Macy's  wanted  good  taste  if  it  was 
what  sold,  but  they  weren't  going  to  fire  a  lot  of  tried  and  true 
money-makers.  The  idea  was  to  employ  professionals  in 
"good  taste,"  i.e.,  stylists. 

A  stylist  is  not  a  buyer  nor  is  she  strictly  a  promotion 
artist.  She  was  originally  put  in  to  urge  the  buyers  to  get 
newer  merchandise,  chic  merchandise,  smart  merchandise. 
The  stylist  had  very  little  authority  over  the  buyer  in  most 
stores.  Persuasion  was  her  chief  tool.  At  the  height  of  styl- 
ing, in  1928,  all  stores  in  New  York  who  had  any  pride  at 
all  had  a  stylist  for  every  two  or  three  departments.  They 
saw  to  it  that  the  departments  contained  things  for  the  adver- 
tising manager  to  exploit. 

Mr.  Meyer  looked  me  over  that  wintry  Monday  morn- 
ing. I  was  dressed  in  black  with  two  silver  foxes.  I  had  on 
the  latest  Descat  hat.  I  had  on  my  diamond  ring.  Mr.  Strauss 
had  introduced  me. 


After  listening  to  the  story  of  my  life,  I  was  immediately 
turned  over  to  a  bright  young  girl.  The  girl  took  me  all 
around  the  store.  We  arrived  first  in  the  shoe  department 
and  she  stopped  in  front  of  a  show  case.  "Which  shoe  is  in 
good  taste  and  why?"  she  inquired. 

With  my  intimate  knowledge  of  what  the  chic  European 
made-to-order  woman  was  wearing,  I  whipped  out  the  an- 
swer. Ninety  percent  of  the  shoes  were  awful.  Nobody  wears 
shoes  with  extra  trimming.  Nobody  wears  walking  shoes  with 
French  heels.  Nobody  wears  shoes  with  round  toes. 

I  assured  her,  in  the  hat  department,  that  nobody  wore 
hats  with  anything  but  grosgrain  ribbon  for  trimming.  At 
the  jewelry  counter,  I  allowed  that  everyone  was  wearing 
heavy  gilt  modernistic  jewelry  and  long  strings  of  pearls. 
Nothing  else  except  real  jewels. 

The  girl  became  more  and  more  pleased.  I  told  her  what 
had  been  worn  on  the  Riviera,  at  Cannes  where  I  had  not 
been  last  spring.  She  took  me  back  to  Mr.  Meyer  after  an 
hour  or  so.  On  the  way  back,  I  asked  her  what  she  had  been 
doing  to  me.  She  said  it  was  a  style  test  and  that  I  was  per- 

The  upshot  of  it  all  was  that  the  job  was  reduced  to  two, 
me  and  another  lady  who  really  knew  Mr.  Strauss.  I  never 
saw  her  but  I  gathered  she  was  older  and  chicer.  Neither  of 
us  had  ever  been  inside  a  department  store  before  except  to 
shop.  We  both,  however,  convinced  Macy's  that  we  had  good 

They  hired  the  other  lady  and  I  went  back  to  Paris  for 
the  New  Yorker  and  my  syndicate  job.  Naturally,  when  that 
blew  up,  my  thoughts  turned  to  Macy's. 

I  took  a  long  taxi  ride,  away  from  the  Musee  Rodin,  be- 
hind which  I  lived,  across  the  Seine,  up  through  the  Place 
Vendome,  along  the  endless  boulevards  into  that  section 


where  I  had  not  been  since  the  old  days  of  transporting  Cha- 
nel's models. 

There,  in  the  Citee  Paradis,  a  cobble-stoned,  dead-end 
street,  was  Macy's  Paris  office,  a  small  stone  building  with 
a  very  high  ceiling,  light  basement  and  two  floors  above  it. 
The  first  floor  contained  many  little  offices,  one  beside  the 
other.  The  top  floor  contained  the  "comptabilite,"  those  desks 
full  of  bookkeeping  and  safes  full  of  money,  the  offices  of 
the  French  director  of  the  office,  and  that  of  Mr.  Meyer. 

Everything  worked  out  fortuitously  because  the  lady 
Macy's  had  hired  in  New  York  when  I  was  after  the  job  had 
just  quit  or  been  fired.  I  said  I'd  start  at  any  salary  they  liked 
for  a  few  weeks  and  we  could  see  what  happened.  I  was 
hired  for  $50  and  an  expense  account  per  week. 

My  duties,  like  those  of  the  lady  just  demised  were  these : 
I  was  to  report  on  Paris  fashions  to  R.  H.  Macy  in  New 
York.  That  was  my  meat.  I  was  to  go  out  with  New  York 
buyers  and  prevent  them  from  buying  anything  in  bad  taste. 
The  buyers  were  to  be  told  that  they  could  only  buy  what  I 
allowed  them  to  buy.  The  price  and  quantity  were  their 
worry,  the  appearance  mine.  I  was  to  descend  every  morn- 
ing on  arrival  at  the  Macy's  Paris  office  to  the  basement. 

In  the  basement  was  all  the  merchandise  previously 
bought  by  any  Macy  buyer  in  Paris.  I  had  two  little  rubber 
stamps.  One  of  them  was  marked  "O.K."  and  had  a  space 
below  for  my  name  and  a  date.  The  other  was  marked  "See 
letter  No.  xx"  with  a  place  for  my  name  and  a  date. 

The  first  stylist  had  been  given  the  right  and  duty  of  re- 
turning any  merchandise  which  was  purchased  when  her 
back  was  turned  and  which  she  considered  to  be  in  bad  taste. 
It  was  easy  to  see  why  she  lasted  only  three  months.  Mr. 
Meyer  had  then  decided  that  it  was  preferable  to  ship  the 


bad  taste  merchandise  but  to  have  me  write  a  letter  explain- 
ing why  I  disapproved  of  it. 

The  first  two  or  three  weeks  I  worked  for  Macy's  were 
easy  and  I  accomplished  wonders.  I  organized  all  the  fash- 
ion reports  and  had  them  mimeographed.  I  worked  them  out 
with  sketches  and  resumeed  them  just  as  I  had  the  Store  Serv- 
ice Syndicate.  Macy's  were  bowled  over  with  the  beauty  and 
simplicity  of  that  gesture.  It  looked  like  a  hell  of  a  lot  of 
work  and  was  sent  in  quantity  so  all  the  buyers  in  New  York 
could  have  one. 

There  was  only  one  person  in  Macy's  in  New  York  who 
evidently  resented  all  my  trouble.  It  was  a  gentleman  named 
Oswald  Knauth.  I  hadn't  met  him  at  the  time  but  I  gathered 
he  was  pretty  important  and  also  very  odd.  He  sent  a  brief 
message  via  Mr.  Meyer  to  the  effect  that  he  never  wanted 
any  report  sent  to  him  of  more  than  fifty  words  and  that  most 
of  the  time  he  thought  fifty  words  was  too  long.  Mr.  Oswald 
Knauth  is  now  the  president  of  a  large  and  important  group 
of  stores  in  the  United  States. 

I  inspected  merchandise  and  sent  along  word  that  it  was 
all  in  terribly  bad  taste.  There  were  no  New  York  buyers 
around  and  life  was  pleasant.  I  realized  that  I'd  better  be  a 
good  girl.  I  took  my  expense  account  in  hand  and  lunched 
at  the  Ritz  and  night-clubbed  with  the  chic  monde.  After 
three  weeks  I  had  my  salary  doubled. 

Suddenly  my  first  buyer  from  New  York  turned  up.  She 
was  a  jewelry  buyer.  We  went  out  to  buy  together. 

The  first  place  we  went  was  filled  with  artificial  pearls 
and  rubies  and  diamonds  made  into  necklaces,  bracelets  and 
what  not.  The  buyer  would  pick  up  a  necklace  and  say,  "How 
do  you  like  this  one?"  I  always  responded,  "I  think  it's 


After  fifteen  minutes  of  that  she  said,  "This  is  the  line 
I  sell  the  most  of  in  New  York." 

We  were  both  quite  desperate.  I  made  a  hasty  decision.  I 
decided  that  Macy's,  whether  they  knew  it  or  not,  couldn't 
possibly  be  paying  me  $100  a  week  to  ruin  their  jewelry  de- 
partment. I  said,  "Why  don't  you  just  go  ahead  and  buy 
whatever  you  want?" 

While  she  placed  an  order,  I  just  smoked  and  looked  out 
the  window  and  began  to  wonder  exactly  what  Macy's 
thought  they  were  doing,  hiring  girls  like  me  to  tell  their 
buyers  what  not  to  buy. 

I  lasted  seven  months  in  the  Macy's  job.  I  attribute  it  to 
the  fact  that  I  adopted  the  same  policy  with  all  the  buyers.  I 
led  them  to  what  I  had  found  that  was  chic  in  the  Parisian 
sense.  I  urged  them  to  buy  at  least  a  little  of  that.  Then  I 
went  about  with  them  and  smoked  a  good  deal  while  they 
got  what  they  wanted. 

Part  of  my  job  as  stylist  was  to  buy  samples  of  whatever 
I  thought  was  exceptionally  chic  in  Paris  between  onslaughts 
of  the  real  buyer.  I  sampled  things. 

Sampling  means  that  you  see  hundreds  of  new  bags,  for 
instance,  and  buy  one  of  whichever  you  like  best.  You  send 
them  on  to  New  York  in  the  fond  hope  that  you  will  get  a  re- 
order to  justify  your  original  purchase.  Buyers  hate  this 
sampling  for  two  reasons.  It's  expensive:  chic's  the  object 
and  not  price,  and,  more  than  likely,  it's  no  use  to  the  buyer 
because  some  manufacturer  in  New  York  has  already  gotten 
a  sample  and  copied  it.  More  important  to  the  buyer,  if  she 
gets  using  your  samples  it  may  become  obvious  to  the  mer- 
chandising man,  her  immediate  boss,  that  she  might  as  well 
just  stay  in  New  York  and  let  some  resident  buyer  or  stylist 
do  her  foreign  buying. 

Whenever  I  got  particularly  bored  with  sampling  in 


Macy's  Paris  office,  I  found  it  a  good  idea  to  betake  myself 
to  some  resort  to  see  what  was  going  on  there.  One  thing  must 
be  said  for  my  experience  with  R.  H.  Macy.  Once  they  had 
hired  me,  they  let  me  do  my  job  as  I  saw  it,  entirely  and  with- 
out interference.  When  we  got  so  we  saw  the  job  differently, 
they  fired  me. 

My  first  resort  trip  was  Biarritz.  All  the  fashion  report- 
ers went  down.  I  told  Mr.  Meyer  I  thought  I'd  better  go  down. 

He  agreed  that  where  went  the  chic  monde,  there  should 
I  follow.  If  Macy's  didn't  know  at  once  what  was  worn  in  chic 
European  spring  resorts,  how  could  they  hope  to  do  a  good 
summer  business? 

I  had  my  first  experience,  in  Biarritz,  of  leading  the 
chic  life.  I  went  to  the  right  beach  to  swim  although  there 
were  three  others  much  nicer.  I  went  to  drink  afterward  at 
the  right  bar,  at  the  right  hour.  I  went  gambling  when  I  was 
supposed  to  gamble,  and  danced  when  I  was  supposed  to 

I  was  lucky  because,  although  I  was  a  reporter,  I  had  a 
boy  friend.  Most  of  the  reporters  were  wandering  around, 
gaunt,  grim,  and  alone,  observing  like  mad.  They  were  a 
great  help  to  me.  After  a  couple  of  drinks,  I  usually  relaxed 
my  vigilance  and  concentrated  on  Chemin  de  Fer.  I  made 
quite  a  lot  of  money  gambling. 

The  next  day,  on  the  beach,  I'd  sidle  up  to  another  re- 
porter and  she'd  tell  me  who  wore  what  at  the  Casino  last 
night.  After  just  two  days,  I  found  I  could  lead  my  own  life. 
I  went  to  my  first  bull  fight,  at  San  Sebastien  just  over  the 
Spanish  border.  I  stopped  going  to  the  beach  because,  al- 
though it  was  the  season,  it  was  frightfully  cold. 

I  borrowed  a  car  and  took  another  reporter  motoring 
along  the  coast  to  St.  Jean  and  decided  that  if  I  ever  had  to 


come  to  Biarritz  to  observe  the  chic  monde  again,  I  would  go 
directly  to  St.  Jean. 

After  a  week  of  it,  I  went  back  to  Paris.  I  tended  to  my 
buyers  until  it  got  to  be  June  and  I  had  to  go  to  England  be- 
cause there  were  the  races  at  Ascot.  Later,  I  had  to  go  to 
Le  Touquet  for  Macy's  news,  and  because  a  group  of  friends 
were  driving  down  anyway. 

Came  July  and  the  dress  buyers.  I  was  sent  off  to  Vienna 
with  one  of  them,  one  of  those  who  had  been  at  Macy's  for 
the  last  fifteen  years.  We  got  on  the  train  one  night  to  go  to 
Vienna.  She  didn't  have  a  book  or  a  magazine.  She  just  sat 
for  twenty-three  hours. 

We  were  supposed  to  look  into  the  Vienna  market  to  see 
whether  or  not,  as  rumored,  one  could  now  buy  dresses  there. 
We  arrived  on  a  weekend  and  it  became  the  duty  of  a  little 
Viennese  boy  from  the  office  to  escort  us  about  the  city,  sight- 
seeing on  Sunday.  We  had  a  car.  It  stopped  outside  a  large 

The  boy  asked  the  buyer,  who  was  my  senior  in  every 
way,  whether  she  would  care  to  get  out  and  see  the  church. 
"Is  it  your  best  church,"  she  inquired,  "because  if  it  isn't,  I 
don't  think  I  want  to  bother." 

Later,  at  lunch,  he  was  chattering  along  and  said,  "I 
read  a  good  deal  of  American  poetry,  in  translation  of 
course.  Have  you  ever  read  Walt  Whitman?" 

"Why  should  I  read  Walt  Whitman,"  the  buyer  wanted 
to  know.  "I'm  a  dress  buyer." 

I  had  my  first  airplane  flight,  back  from  Vienna  at  Macy's 
expense.  And  I  had  one  really  practical  idea  for  them.  In 
Vienna  I  found  that  handknit  sweaters  cost  about  $3.00.  In 
Paris,  Schiaparelli  was  just  beginning  to  have  some  success 
with  her  handknits.  She  worked  in  her  little  first-floor  apart- 


ment  and  all  the  chic  women  paid  her  $12  for  her  sweaters 
with  their  modernistic  designs. 

Macy's,  of  course,  I  had  forced  to  get  a  few.  They  were 
so  chic.  Even  I  realized,  however,  that  they  were  a  little  ex- 
pensive to  resell. 

The  French  head  of  the  office  and  I  discussed  my  idea 
and  he  authorized  me  to  obtain  some  modern  sweater  designs 
in  Paris  and  send  them  to  Vienna  to  be  copied  at  $3.25. 
Nothing  came  of  it  in  New  York.  Apparently  modernistic 
designs  on  sweaters  at  $12  retail  were  not  in  good  taste  for 
Macy's  in  1927. 

Those  were  the  only  designs  I  ever  had  copied  for 
Macy's.  Of  course,  we,  like  every  other  resident  office,  sam- 
pled plenty  of  things  which  we  suspected  were  never  to  be 
re-ordered  but  only  to  be  copied.  Our  problem  in  such  sam- 
pling was  to  beat  down  the  manufacturer  on  the  price  of  the 
sample  by  all  but  promising  him  that  we  would  get  a  re-order. 

Mr.  Meyer  suggested  to  me  that  he  knew  I'd  been  a 
sketcher  and  that  I  might  come  through  for  Macy's  but  la 
politesse  forbade  his  forcing  the  issue.  I  told  him  this  type 
of  work  no  longer  interested  me. 

The  methods  of  the  good  buyers  were  more  profitable  to 
some  department  stores  than  either  sampling  or  stealing. 
One  handkerchief  buyer  I  knew,  for  instance,  had  such  a 
system  for  beating  down  the  French  manufacturers  that  I 
am  sure  they  couldn't  basically  afford  to  sell  to  her  at  all. 

She  would  start  by  getting  the  price  per  dozen.  She  would 
then  take  the  price  per  dozen  dozen,  compare  the  two,  and  get 
the  first  price  reduced.  She  would  then  go  off  into  dozen 
dozen  dozens  and  get  the  price  reduced  again.  She  would 
then  assure  the  manufacturer  that  everyone  in  New  York  fol- 
lowed her  store's  buyers  and  that  he  was  not  in  any  position 
to  refuse  her  anything.  When  she  left  any  given  handkerchief 

manufacturer,  he  had  sold  her  thousands  of  handkerchiefs 
and  probably  lost  a  half  a  cent  on  every  one. 

By  the  time  I'd  been  five  months  with  Macy's,  I  did  vir- 
tually nothing  but  report  fashions.  As  I  saw  each  new  buyer 
from  New  York,  I  established  some  sort  of  contact  which 
always  ended  by  seeing  her  point  of  view  and  not  only  let- 
ting her  buy  what  she  wanted,  but  also  ceasing  in  large  part 
to  send  her  samples. 

I  was  bored  to  death  but  $100  a  week  was  so  many 
French  francs  I  couldn't  see  quitting  and  reducing  my  stand- 
ard of  living  back  to  New  Yorker  levels.  And  at  last,  in  the 
seventh  month,  my  boss  fired  me  by  letter  from  New  York. 
It  was  the  happiest  day  of  my  life,  bar  none. 

Designing  was  what  I  had  come  to  Paris  to  learn.  I'd 
learned  a  lot  but  I  hadn't  designed  a  dress  except  for  myself. 
I  had  watched  American  manufacturers  steal  and  the  de- 
partment stores  buy.  They  all  got  the  same  thing.  I  was  still 
sold  on  the  fact  that  they  all  had  to  have  fashions  from  Paris. 
I  decided  to  go  back  to  New  York  and  sell  some  department 
store  the  idea  of  letting  me  design  clothes  in  Paris  and  send 
them  back. 

The  point  was  that,  being  in  Paris,  I  would  have  the 
French  trend  in  design.  The  store  which  hired  me  would  have 
a  different  version  of  the  trend  from  any  other  store. 

Back  in  New  York,  I  talked  to  Altman,  who  didn't  know 
what  I  was  getting  at,  and  to  Lord  and  Taylor,  who  didn't  care 
what  I  was  getting  at.  I  decided  to  work  for  Lord  and  Taylor 
and  show  them.  Lord  and  Taylor  had  just  planned  a  whole 
bureau  of  stylists  in  Paris.  It  seemed  to  me  that  somehow  by 
working  in  the  bureau  I'd  find  a  chance  to  design  for  them. 

The  lady  who  was  to  head  the  Paris  styling  bureau  had 
left  for  Paris.  I  followed  her  over  and  got  hired  for  $40  a 
week  and  an  expense  account. 


I  keep  mentioning  the  expense  account  because  it  was 
important  in  Paris.  It  made  it  possible  for  you  to  live  free 
all  day  and  have  a  really  clear  salary.  As  a  stylist,  it  was 
necessary  to  be  out  in  the  town  looking  up  chic  most  of  the 
time  and  taxis  were  the  only  quick  way  of  getting  about.  As 
a  stylist  it  was  necessary  to  go  to  chic  places.  The  expense 
account  could  pay  for  most  of  one's  food  and  all  of  one's 

Nobody  mentioned  my  designing  in  Lord  and  Taylor's 
Paris  office.  I  was  given  a  desk  in  a  row  of  five.  The  head 
stylist  had  an  office  to  herself.  There  were  three  others,  an- 
other young  American  girl,  much  like  myself,  a  youth  who 
had  worked  for  Lord  and  Taylor  in  New  York,  an  older 
American  lady  who  had  lived  for  years  in  Paris.  The  older 
American  lady  had  been  the  only  Paris  stylist  for  Lord  and 
Taylor  but,  I  gathered,  had  not  fully  realized  the  necessity 
for  more  and  more  and  more  fashion  from  the  center  of  style. 
The  fashion  staff  was  completed  by  a  French  secretary  and 

I  had  been  over  the  bumps  in  Macy's  Paris  office  and 
knew  a  good  deal  about  the  Paris  market.  The  Paris  market 
is  not  only  all  the  big  dressmakers  but  also  all  the  designers 
of  hats,  bags,  gloves  and  what  not,  and,  last  but  not  at  all 
least,  the  manufacturers  of  toilet  accessories,  boxes,  hand- 
kerchiefs and  their  cases,  jewelry,  everything  to  make  the 
women  happy. 

There  were  also  all  the  Paris  decorators.  Macy's  had  had 
a  modern  furniture  show  before  I  worked  for  them  and  Lord 
and  Taylor  were  very,  very  decoration-conscious. 

I  had  a  rather  annoying  incident  when  I  was  fired  from 
Macy's.  My  address  book  disappeared  from  my  desk  where 
I  left  it  the  day  I  was  fired.  When  I  came  back  to  collect  it 


the  next  day,  there  it  wasn't.  It  contained  the  addresses  of 
everyone  from  whom  Macy's  bought. 

The  idea  is  that  one  store  can  have  sources  of  which  no 
other  store  knows.  This  is  of  course  all  sheer  nonsense.  The 
minute  any  manufacturer  in  any  town  sells  anything  to  any- 
body, he  instantly  notifies  all  the  other  stores  and  tries  to 
frighten  them  into  buying  something  too. 

When  I  got  the  Lord  and  Taylor  job,  I  wanted  my  old 
address  book  quite  badly.  It  had  taken  me  months  to  make  it 
and  it  meant  retracing  the  same  ground.  Of  course,  nobody 
in  the  Macy's  office  ever  had  the  foggiest  idea  where  the  book 
could  possibly  have  gone.  I  finally  found  my  old  secretary 
who  had  also  been  fired  from  Macy's.  She  immediately  said 
she  was  so  sorry  she  hadn't  informed  me  before,  but  that  of 
course  in  her  thorough  way  of  providing  for  the  future  she 
had  always  kept  a  copy  of  my  addresses  for  herself.  She 
made  me  a  new  copy  of  my  book  so  my  life  in  L  and  T  started 

We  all  worked  more  or  less  on  everything.  I  was  specifi- 
cally given  the  decorating  departments.  It  was  fun  working 
for  Lord  and  Taylor.  Somehow  there  wasn't  the  pressure  one 
felt  in  Macy's.  We  none  of  us  got  much  money  but  there  were 
six  to  do  what  I  had  been  supposed  to  do  alone  at  Macy's. 
All  the  people  were  consequently  more  human. 

The  head  of  the  styling  office  kept  pretty  busy.  She  didn't 
like  Paris  and  always  refused  to  eat  where  she  thought  it  was 
dirty.  She  didn't  speak  French  much.  The  older  lady,  who 
had  always  lived  in  Paris,  had  a  fixed  social  life.  She  under- 
stood pretty  clearly  what  she  was  supposed  to  do  and  took  it 
quite  seriously. 

I  found  myself  with  a  couple  of  healthy  young  Ameri- 
cans who  had  never  worked  in  Paris  before,  eager  to  learn 
all  about  the  great  world  of  style.  I  taught  them  all  I  knew 


and  we  got  our  jobs  so  boiled  down  that  we  never  had  to  work 
more  than  half  a  day,  sometimes  not  even  that.  I  knew  all  the 
sources  and  we  just  split  up  what  we  had  to  see  to,  working 
singly  or  in  pairs  as  seemed  advisable.  The  idea  was  not  like 
the  French,  that  life  is  leisurely  and  work  may  be  done 
slowly.  We  did  all  our  work  with  the  utmost  speed  so  that  in 
one  day  we  could  easily  do  three  days'  tasks. 

For  instance,  I  thought  it  would  be  nice  for  Lord  and 
Taylor  to  have  some  fine  modern  rugs.  It  only  took  me  one 
day  and  many  taxis  to  notify  a  few  designers  that  I  wanted 
rug  designs.  I  could  have  spent  two  weeks  doing  it.  Then  it 
took  me  another  couple  of  days  to  collect  the  designs,  get 
prices  on  possible  execution  in  Paris,  make  up  a  report  and 
send  it  all  into  the  head  office  in  New  York. 

The  disturbing  part  of  it  was  that  no  word  ever  came 
back  from  the  head  office  of  any  of  the  work  we  actually  ac- 
complished. Just  what  happened  to  it,  I  don't  know  to  this 
day.  We  only  tracked  down  one  case  to  its  finish. 

The  youth  and  I  thought  that  a  set  of  modern  monograms 
would  be  nice  for  the  men's  department.  We  got  an  allow- 
ance of  $50  to  have  them  made  up.  We  got  a  friend  of  mine, 
a  painter,  to  work  on  them.  This  consumed  many  many  days 
with  trips  to  the  painter's  studio,  long  discussions,  drinks. 

Finally  the  monograms  were  completed  and  sent  over, 
we  thought  for  Christmas  handkerchiefs.  A  year  later  when 
the  boy  returned  to  New  York  to  work  in  the  store  there,  he 
ascertained  that  the  monograms  had  never  been  used.  He 
looked  about  and  found  them — under  a  blotter  on  someone's 

It  was  fundamentally  discouraging,  getting  up  an  idea, 
working  it  out,  and  never  hearing  another  word  about  it.  It 
was  an  easy  pleasant  life  leading  to  nothing  but  cafes  on  the 
left  bank  where  we  went  for  breakfast  after  reporting  for 


work  at  nine.  True,  after  breakfast  we  went  on  to  a  box  manu- 
facturer and  got  whole  new  sets  of  closet  boxes  made  up  for 
some  buyer  to  see  and  order  on  when  she  arrived.  She  either 
didn't  arrive  or  didn't  order. 

Somehow  it  was  just  too  far  from  Paris  to  New  York. 
The  ideas  got  lost  en  route.  We  never  knew  whether  some- 
thing had  already  been  done  in  New  York.  We  never  knew 
whether  it  was  cheaper  to  do  it  in  New  York  or  Paris.  We  had 
the  same  old  Macy's  trouble,  the  buyers  didn't  want  us. 

Lord  and  Taylor's  buyers  didn't  need  us  much  either, 
because  they  weren't  so  old  nor  so  set  as  the  Macy  buyers. 
They  probably  even  read  Walt  Whitman  like  their  custom- 
ers, some  of  them.  The  Paris  stylist  had  a  bastard  job. 

The  New  York  stylist  was  nearer  the  heart  of  things,  but 
she  had  a  bastard  job  too.  No  buyer  wanted  her.  She  was 
just  another  salary  to  the  merchandising  man.  If  the  buyer 
couldn't  supply  what  the  store  thought  the  public  wanted, 
having  an  attractive  girl  at  hand  with  large  ideas  on  what  was 
smart  didn't  solve  the  problem. 

The  point  is:  the  stylist  didn't  have  any  better  taste  than 
anyone  else.  The  stylist  was  supposed  to  have  newer  taste. 
Maybe  she  did  have  newer  taste,  but  there  was  nothing  to 
prove  she  could  figure  out  what  the  majority  of  women 
wanted,  because  she  had  been  to  a  good  school  and  afterward 
done  her  time  in  European  art  galleries. 

The  department  stores  discovered  a  lot  of  this  when  the 
depression  came.  I  think  that  most  of  them  discovered  it  is 
the  job  of  the  buyer  to  know  both  her  figures  on  sales  and 
profits  and  the  general  level  of  the  public  taste.  No  store  can 
afford  to  get  above  the  general  level  of  its  public's  taste. 
They  just  lose  their  customers.  The  problem  of  the  depart- 
ment store  is  to  keep  exactly  even  with  changing  taste. 

What  the  chic  European  woman  wears  where  she  goes  is 


of  minimum  importance  to  a  department  store  buyer.  The 
clientele  of  R.  H.  Macy  and  Lord  and  Taylor  is  not  com- 
posed of  chic  women.  Chic  women  don't  give  bridge  parties. 
They  don't  go  to  the  matinee.  They  aren't  faced  with  that 
problem  of  what  to  wear  to  dinner  when  the  men  don't  dress. 

The  buyers  knew  all  that.  But  the  stores  were  rich  and 
the  public  had  money  to  spend.  The  advertising  departments 
wanted  glamour  to  pile  on.  They  spent  hundreds  of  thou- 
sands of  dollars  building  the  French  legend.  Not  only 
dresses,  but  everything  that  a  woman  bought,  used,  wore, 
was  supposedly  designed  in  Paris.  The  department  stores  of 
the  United  States  made  an  enormous  capital  investment  in 
the  names  of  the  French  couturiers. 

Lord  and  Taylor's  and  other  Paris  style  bureaus  died  a 
natural  death  when  the  depression  cut  down  spending.  Long 
before  that,  I  left  it.  I  only  stayed  with  Lord  and  Taylor  four 
months,  in  fact.  I  saw  that  nobody  had  the  faintest  intention 
of  letting  me  give  my  version  of  the  current  style  in  clothes. 
The  stores  weren't  a  bit  embarrassed  in  1927  by  all  having 
the  same  clothes  to  sell.  They  liked  it. 

The  stylist  was  flourishing.  There  was  plenty  of  money 
to  pay  her.  Everything  in  fashion  was  bigger  and  better  and 
more  French  every  hour. 

Main  Bocher,  then  the  Paris  editor  of  Vogue,  offered  me 
a  job  on  his  magazine. 



inning  an 


/      </ 

IT  WAS  April  of  1928  when  I  was  called  to  the  Vogue  office. 
With  no  hesitation  at  all,  I  declined  the  job.  I  told  Mon- 
sieur Bocher  that  I  had  come  to  Paris  to  learn  to  design 
clothes,  that  I  was  ready  to  start.  If  I  couldn't  design  clothes 
in  Paris,  I  was  going  home  to  America. 


Main  Bocher  was  very  sympathetic.  Probably  he  was 
feeling  the  same  way,  since  he  very  soon  afterward  started 
his  own  place  and  turned  out  to  be  a  couturier  himself. 

He  said  that  if  I  was  so  bent  on  designing,  he'd  get  me  a 
job.  He  said  he  might  be  able  to  get  me  into  Patou  or  Lanvin 
or  Nicole  Groult.  The  first  two  were  among  the  famous. 
Nicole  Groult,  the  sister  of  Poiret,  had  a  little  shop  on  a  side 
street  and  did  rather  conservative,  nice  clothes.  I  decided  I'd 
prefer  Groult  because  she  had  such  a  small  place  that  I  might 
really  be  allowed  to  do  some  work.  It  seemed  impossible  to 
me  that  either  Patou  or  Lanvin  would  ever  let  me  cut  up  a 
piece  of  material. 

Nicole  Groult  was  an  eccentric-looking  lady,  about  five 
feet  five,  with  reddish  hair  and  a  face  that  had  been  painted 
by  a  good  artist  with  a  sense  of  humor.  She  was,  I  guess, 
about  forty,  and  had  had  a  very  slim  figure.  She  wore  simple 
little  silk  dresses  with  a  belt  tied  in  her  natural  waistline. 
This  was  the  height  of  eccentricity,  since  nobody  had  worn 
their  belts  above  their  hips  for  several  years. 

Monsieur  Bocher  made  an  appointment  for  me  to  see 
Madame  Groult.  We  talked  a  bit  about  nothing  much  except 
that  I  was  determined  to  design  and  had  nothing  whatever  to 
show  her.  Very  quickly  she  said,  "Come  on  in.  I  like  young 

I  was  hired  for  500  francs  a  month,  about  $20,  just  what 
I'd  gotten  in  my  first  Paris  job.  I  told  her  I  didn't  want  any 
salary,  just  to  be  allowed  to  make  about  fifteen  dresses  with- 
out interference.  She  insisted  on  paying  me  something  and 
I  went  to  work. 

It  was  May,  the  latter  part.  She  was  just  about  to  start 
on  her  new  collection,  which  had  to  be  finished  for  the  buy- 
ers in  July.  I  suppose  she  let  me  in  because  Main  Bocher 
must  have  told  her  I  knew  Americans  in  Paris,  and  also  be- 


cause  I  had  worked  for  Macy's  and  Lord  and  Taylor — and 
the  Maison  Groult  was  not  being  very  successful  with  Amer- 
icans. The  clientele  was  mostly  French.  The  clothes  really 
didn't  have  enough  detail  to  attract  manufacturers.  I  think 
some  new  money  had  just  been  put  in  by  a  gentleman  who 
hoped  to  build  the  house  up. 

Every  afternoon  for  the  first  couple  of  weeks  we  looked 
at  collections  of  materials.  We  were  Madame  Groult,  George, 
her  assistant  designer,  and  myself.  Every  designer  in  Paris 
was  busy  doing  the  same  thing.  The  salesmen  from  Rodier 
and  Bianchini  and  Ducharne,  and  all  the  fabric  manufac- 
turers, large  and  small,  came  around  with  suitcases  full  of 
large  samples. 

We  looked  through  all  of  them  and  every  time  any  of  us 
liked  anything  we  checked  it.  That  meant  that  a  piece  of  it 
was  sent  in  on  memorandum.  This  consummation  devoutly 
to  be  wished  by  every  designer  does  not  as  yet  exist  for  the 
couturier  in  America. 

It  means  simply  this:  the  fabric  house  sends  you  what- 
ever material  you  like  in  hopes  that  you  may  make  a  dress 
out  of  it.  You,  the  designer,  have  a  large  room  which  be- 
comes filled  with  piles  of  every  kind  of  stuff  that  pleases 
your  fancy.  You  use  whatever  you  like  and  return  all  the 

If  you  are  a  big  designer  in  Paris,  Vionnet,  Patou,  Lan- 
vin,  you  not  only  can  select  what  you  want,  but  you  tell  the 
fabric  manufacturer  ahead  of  time  what  material  you  are 
going  to  want.  The  manufacturer  then  makes  it  and  you  use 
it,  or  not,  just  as  you  please  after  you  see  it. 

Nicole  Groult  was  not  in  a  position  to  dictate  to  the  fabric 
manufacturers.  It  didn't  matter  much  to  me,  or  to  her,  I 
think.  We  selected  hundreds  of  materials  out  of  which  we 
might  make  clothes. 


When  we  had  seen  the  fabric  salesmen,  the  trimming 
people  flooded  in.  We  selected  all  the  buttons  and  belts  and 
buckles  we  liked  and  got  samples  of  them  to  have  on  hand. 

Nicole  Groult  never  worked  before  two-thirty.  Neither 
did  George.  When  we  got  to  the  designing,  I  used  to  go  in  the 
morning  because  nobody  was  around,  and  I  could  have  the 
materials  and  models  and  mirrors  to  myself. 

George  worked  entirely  from  sketches.  He  was  a  good 
sketcher  if  not  a  particularly  talented  designer.  He  had 
rather  theatrical  ideas  which  looked  more  exciting  on  paper 
than  in  the  flesh.  Madame  Groult  could  neither  sketch  nor  cut 
as  far  as  I  was  able  to  make  out.  She  sometimes  brought  in 
very  rough  little  pencil  marks,  which  she  explained  to  the 
fitter  who  seemed  to  get  her  ideas  and  make  up  what  she 

Often  I  think  she  simply  selected  a  bolt  of  material  and 
told  the  fitter  what  she  wanted  without  either  rough  sketch  or 
draping.  Perhaps  George  sketched  for  her  sometimes. 

All  over  Paris  in  the  month  of  June  every  dressmaking 
establishment  was  busy  going  through  the  same  motions.  I 
understand  that  Patou  used  to  select  his  fabrics  and  tell  the 
heads  of  his  workrooms  what  line  he  wanted  in  the  clothes 
for  the  season.  The  fitters  would  then  retire  and  make  mus- 
lins. Patou  looked  over  the  muslins,  changed  them,  gave  ex* 
act  material  and  color,  supervised  fittings,  and  you  had  a 
Patou  collection. 

The  fitter,  the  premiere  as  she  is  called  in  France,  is  a 
most  important  person  in  any  dressmaking  establishment. 
Very  often  the  French  premiere  is  the  actual  designer,  as  in 
the  case  of  Patou.  Patou  stood,  I  think,  in  the  place  of  a 
stylist,  but  a  functioning  one,  to  his  premieres. 

In  Nicole  Groult's  the  premieres  had  to  decide  for  them- 
selves how  to  cut  George's  sketches  and  the  ideas  of  Madame 


Groult.  I  worked  every  known  way  that  season,  trying  to  find 
out  how  I  best  could  develop  my  ideas.  The  method  I  after- 
ward took  to  is  that  used  by  Vionnet. 

Vionnet  has  a  half-sized  wooden  mannequin  on  which 
she  cuts  patterns.  Her  premieres  then  make  full-sized  pat- 
terns from  the  small  ones.  I  don't  know  whether  or  not  Vion- 
net sketches. 

Many  designers  work  entirely  from  sketches,  leaving  the 
whole  decision  of  the  final  cut  to  the  premiere.  It  is  my  belief 
that  designers  who  work  that  way  are  limited  by  the  imagina- 
tion of  the  premiere  to  such  an  extent  that  their  designs  often 
fail  of  complete  fulfillment. 

There  seems  no  reason  why  something  as  perfectly  flat 
as  a  tailored  suit  should  not  be  designed  on  paper.  I  do  most 
tailored  and  sports  clothes  on  paper.  Also,  if  one  knows  cut- 
ting and  is  repeating  and  changing  something  already  de- 
signed, it  can  be  done  on  paper.  But  all  new  cuts  and,  I  think, 
really  new  lines  come  out  of  the  material.  If  a  designer  is 
blessed  with  a  super-premiere  all  is  well.  If  a  designer  is  not 
so  blessed,  she  herself  had  better  know  how  to  cut. 

There  is,  of  course,  still  another  method  of  designing. 
You  take  a  bolt  of  material  and  a  woman,  and  cut,  pin  and 
drape  her  into  a  finished  dress.  My  impression  is  that  few 
professional  designers  use  the  method.  It  is  the  method  which 
the  public  wishes  to  think  designers  use.  Few,  if  any,  design- 
ers can  afford  to  ruin  yards  and  yards  of  expensive  material. 
One  must  know  before  slashing  into  a  bit  of  gold  brocade  at 
$20  a  yard  just  how  it  is  to  be  cut.  To  design  by  cutting  on  a 
person  is  the  most  wasteful  thing  in  the  world.  Not  once  in 
a  million  does  a  dress  come  out  exactly  as  planned  in  ad- 

Even  when  one  cuts  muslin  patterns  and  corrects  them 
before  cutting  in  the  material,  there  are  changes  which  often 


necessitate  throwing  out  half  the  dress.  Also,  inspirational 
draping  usually  leads  to  hacking  up  and  cutting  off-the- 
grain  of  the  material.  If  material  is  not  cut  in  accordance 
with  the  weave,  it  hangs  in  every  direction  and  just  won't 
go  where  you  want  it  to.  It  pulls  in  here,  hangs  out  there, 
and  there  is  hell  to  pay. 

If  a  designer  is  working  on  theatrical  clothes  where  only 
the  effect  matters  and  the  dress  doesn't  have  to  stand  up 
under  close  inspection,  he  can  be  as  quickly  inspirational 
as  he  likes.  If  he  is  working  on  some  rare  individual  woman 
who  will  stand  the  long  hours  really  necessary  to  draping  a 
dress  correctly  on  her  figure,  okay. 

In  my  experience  most  women  want  to  know  what  they 
are  going  to  get  before  they  buy  it,  and  they  don't  like  to 
stand  for  fittings.  The  minute  you  have  made  a  sketch  you 
can  just  as  well  prepare  the  fittings  in  advance.  I  also  find 
that  everyone  who  does  special  designs  for  customers,  sold 
from  sketches,  instinctively  uses  tried  and  true  cuts  for  fear 
of  getting  into  some  unforeseen  trouble  in  making  the  dress. 

In  working  out  really  new  designs,  the  perfect  subject 
is  the  hired  mannequin.  She  is  paid  to  stand  up  or  sit  down 
when  she  is  told.  She  cannot  open  her  mouth  and  disconcert 
you  while  you're  finding  out  what  the  hell  you  are  going  to 
do  with  a  neckline.  She  cannot  suddenly  decide  that  the 
chosen  material  is  too  stiff  or  too  thick. 

At  any  rate,  the  order  established  by  all  the  French 
couturiers  is  to  give  the  idea,  by  word,  sketch,  or  pattern 
to  a  premiere.  The  premiere  then  makes  a  complete  pattern 
for  the  mannequin  who  is  subsequently  to  show  the  finished 
dress.  The  designer  sees  the  muslin,  approves  or  changes. 
The  garment  is  then  cut  in  the  final  material. 

When  a  designer  first  decides  what  she  is  going  to  make, 
the  fun,  as  you  can  see,  only  begins.  The  pattern  may  turn 


out  according  to  the  original  idea,  the  dress  cut  in  the  mate- 
rial may  or  may  not. 

Madame  Groult,  George,  and  myself  used  to  assemble 
about  three  every  afternoon,  so  the  premieres  could  bring 
in  our  newly  cut  dresses.  Sometimes  they  looked  swell.  Other 
times  they  looked  awful. 

George  and  I  decided  that  Nicole  never  put  any  backs 
in  her  dresses.  She  thought  up  the  outline  and  the  front  and 
forgot  to  discuss  the  back  with  the  premiere.  So  usually  the 
material  just  went  around  and  covered  up  the  nakedness 
under  it.  George  and  I  took  to  attacking  Madame  Groult  for 
having  no  backs.  She  was  very  pleasant  about  it  all  and 
paid  very  little  attention. 

She  tried  to  help  us  when  we  made  something  awful. 
Once  I  had  three  frights  come  out  in  a  row.  I  probably 
looked  as  ill  as  I  felt  because  she  hastily  told  me  to  wait  and 
see  how  I  felt  when  I  did  fifteen  bad  dresses  at  once. 

The  worst  trouble  George  had  was  that  he'd  make  very 
beautiful  sketches  on  women  nine  feet  high.  When  the  dress 
was  cut  in  normal  proportion,  it  was  all  chopped  into  little 
fiddling  bits. 

Madame  Groult  and  I  only  had  one  set-to.  It  was  on 
the  matter  of  the  waistline.  Madame  Groult  had  a  way  of 
taking  dresses  which  looked  wrong  off  the  mannequin  and 
putting  them  on  herself.  Madame  Groult,  as  I  have  indi- 
cated, had  been  very  thin  but  was  now  acquiring  a  small 

Waistlines  were  by  way  of  indicating  a  return  to  normal 
in  1928.  Groult  had  not  only  always  worn  normal  waist- 
lines but  had  shown  them  in  her  collection.  Her  figure  was 
getting  to  the  point  where  the  normal  waistline  was  not  as 
becoming  as  it  had  once  been. 

I  like  normal  waistlines.  I  started  to  put  them  on  my 


clothes.  Madame  Groult  took  to  putting  my  normal-waisted 
dresses  on  herself  and  lowering  the  waistline.  I  took  excep- 
tion to  that. 

"But,  Madame  Groult,"  I  argued,  "You  have  had  normal 
waistlines  for  years.  Why  do  you  want  to  stop  now,  when 
they  are  just  about  to  come  back  into  style?" 

"If  everyone  else  is  going  to  have  them,  why  should  I?" 
she  snapped.  "I'm  sick  of  them." 

I  think  one  of  the  things  which  determines  the  life  of  a 
dress  designer  is  how  much  she  designs  for  herself.  If  the 
designer  cannot  get  objective  about  clothes,  she  is  limited 
to  a  large  extent  in  the  duration  of  her  success.  Nicole  Groult 
always  designed  for  herself  and  sold  it  to  what  public  she 

Schiaparelli  has  always,  in  my  opinion,  designed  for 
herself.  Vera  Borea,  of  short-lived  fame,  designed  for  her- 
self. Vionnet  probably  never  designed  for  herself  in  her  life. 
She  is  the  exact  opposite  of  the  Vionnet  model  type.  She  is 
short  and  plumpish.  I  wouldn't  be  surprised  if  Chanel,  when 
she  had  her  great  success,  was  designing  for  herself.  Chanel 
was  obviously  too  intelligent  a  woman  to  continue  that  too 
long.  Her  designs,  however,  have  never  had  their  first  great 
integrity  since  long  waists  went  out  and  femininity  came  in. 

If  a  designer  designs  for  herself,  she  has  as  big  a  success 
as  there  are  people  who  are  built  like  her  and  who  feel  just 
as  she  does  about  clothes.  The  minute  she  loses  her  figure, 
her  designs  are  lost  to  the  young  people  growing  up.  She  may 
retain  an  ever  aging  clientele.  Finally,  they  go  other  places 
in  search  of  youth — or  they  die. 

Through  six  weeks  of  pain  and  pleasure,  the  collections 
of  the  French  designers  evolved,  Nicole  Groult's  with  the 
rest.  The  only  reason  those  collections  get  finished  in  July 
is  for  the  benefit  of  the  visiting  buyer. 


Years  of  work  and  miles  of  material  are  sewed  up,  ulti- 
mately to  clothe  the  international  private  clientele  of  the 
Parisian  couture.  First  the  stores  and  manufacturers,  the 
small  dressmakers  and  the  tourists  of  the  world  are  let  in  to 
steal  what  they  can,  and  buy  what  they  can't  steal. 

I  don't  believe  there's  ever  been  a  real  designer  in  France 
who  gave  a  whoop  in  hell  what  any  American  or  German  or 
South  American  buyer  thought  of  her  clothes.  The  manager 
of  that  designer  worries  and  makes  the  designer  worry  as  best 
he  may. 

Just  how  most  of  the  designers  react  to  pressure,  I  don't 
know,  but  Nicole  Groult  gave  me  one  reaction.  Her  business 
may  not  have  been  large.  Her  bills  may  not  even  have  been 
paid,  but  I  am  sure  what  she  told  me  would  have  been  the 
same  if  she  had  been  Chanel  herself. 

After  the  collection  was  finished  and  shown  to  the  buy- 
ers, who  didn't  come  in  any  number  nor  buy  in  quantity,  I 
decided  something  should  be  done.  I  reviewed  the  situation 
and  went  to  Madame  Groult  with  a  number  of  suggestions. 
She  listened  politely.  The  models  were  badly  sewed  up.  They 
didn't  fit  the  girls  they  were  made  on.  The  salespeople  were 
phlegmatic.  Nobody  ever  heard  of  her  house.  Why  not  do 
this  and  that,  and  she  might  have  quite  a  good  business. 

Madame  Groult  looked  me  quietly  in  the  eye  and  said, 
"I  have  diamond  bracelets  up  to  here,"  indicating  her  elbow, 
"would  I  be  any  happier  if  I  had  them  to  my  shoulder?  I'm 
going  to  the  Riviera  tomorrow  for  a  rest." 

The  French  designers  have  fun.  They  are  intelligent, 
artistic,  wide-awake  people.  They  are  trained  to  make  beau- 
tiful clothes  for  beautiful  women.  They  do  it  according  to 
the  old  traditional  methods  of  designing  and  dressmaking 
for  a  wealthy  clientele. 

Long  may  they  wave! 


A  T  THIS  point,  I  nearly  died  in  the  American  hospital  in 
r\ Paris.  I'd  been  putting  off  having  my  tonsils  out  for 
months.  The  Groult  collection  finished  and  shown,  Madame 
Groult  gone  off  to  the  Riviera,  I  decided  to  take  two  days  off 
and  get  into  working  condition. 


I  repaired  to  the  hospital  where  a  French  gentleman  who 
was  not  used  to  these  operations  and  had  never  done  one 
there  before,  cut  a  large  piece  out  of  my  throat  along  with 
the  tonsils.  About  three  hours  after  the  operation,  I  was  chok- 
ing to  death.  I  remember  a  flock  of  doctors  rushed  into  the 
room,  led  by  a  rather  excited  nurse.  After  that,  everything 
disappeared  until  such  a  time  as  the  nurse  thought  well  to  tell 
me  that  I  had  almost  bled  to  death  but  everything  was  okay 

When  I  left  the  hospital,  a  week  after,  I  needed  a  rest — 
and  I  wanted  to  think.  I  invited  myself  to  visit  the  family  of 
a  French  boy  I'd  known  these  many  years  in  Paris.  Presently, 
after  going  south  from  Paris  for  five  hours  or  so,  I  arrived 
in  Poitiers  and  was  driven  from  there  to  his  family  house  in 

All  I  saw  was  a  single  long  street  with  the  inevitable  stone 
and  cement  houses  set  tight  to  the  curb  on  either  side.  Pene- 
trating a  dark,  narrow  hall,  stumbling  through  its  fifty  feet 
of  passageway,  I  emerged  into  a  bushy  garden,  an  acre  of  it. 
There  I  spent  two  weeks  reflecting. 

In  July,  1925,  I  had  arrived  in  France  to  discover  the 
chic  monde  and  learn  how  to  design  for  it.  By  August  1928, 
my  exploring  was  complete.  I  knew  that,  given  the  right 
set-up,  I  could  design  beautiful  and  expensive  clothes  for 
some  kind  of  women. 

The  chic  European  monde,  alas,  was  not  to  my  taste.  It 
took  me  three  years  to  find  it  out,  but  I  finally  knew,  once  and 
for  all,  that  the  life  of  the  leisured  European  classes  bored 
me.  I  hated  to  know  what  I  was  to  do  at  every  hour  of  every 
day.  I  didn't  care  for  drinking  cocktails  in  the  right  place 
after  swimming  at  the  right  beach.  Ascot  was  ridiculous  with 
its  flowered  hats  and  lace  dresses. 

No  sense  trying  to  design  clothes  in  Paris  for  a  group  of 


people  whose  lives  were  nothing  to  me,  although  everything 
was  arranged  there  so  that  I  could.  I  could,  that  is,  with  a 
little  work  and  trouble,  find  my  spot,  as  Vionnet  had  found 
hers  and  Molyneux  his,  and  Schiaparelli  and  Marcel  Rochas 
and  Alix,  still  unheard  of,  were  to  find  theirs. 

All  the  craftsmen  of  France  were  ready  to  make  my 
buckles  and  buttons  and  sew  up  my  designs,  beautifully, 
carefully.  All  the  fabric  manufacturers  of  France  would  be 
only  too  pleased  to  make  my  materials. 

There  was  the  rub.  What  could  be  found  in  America  to 
equal  the  set-up  which  had  kept  the  couturiers  of  Paris  in 
business  for  generations,  which  was  to  see  them  through  a 
world  depression,  which  had  made  a  legend  of  their  art  so 
that  all  women  wanted  it? 

The  business  of  making  expensive  clothes  to  order  has 
never  been  a  really  profitable  one  per  se.  By  profitable,  I 
mean  steadily  so.  A  couturier  may  make  a  great  deal  of 
money  in  prosperous  times.  At  the  first  hint  of  a  depression, 
he  finds  himself  stuck  with  an  enormous  overhead  and  no 

The  French  do  have  a  way  of  saving  in  good  times  and 
can  usually  see  themselves  through  a  few  years  of  depres- 
sion. Nevertheless,  no  one  who  has  as  expensive  an  establish- 
ment as  the  important  Paris  couturier,  Chanel,  Patou,  Vion- 
net, could  possibly  survive  a  long  depression  without  help. 

It  must  also  be  considered  that  a  couturier  is,  at  bottom, 
an  artist.  Artists  have  a  well-earned  reputation  for  being 
highly  impractical,  in  a  money  sense.  They  would,  the  best 
of  them,  prefer  to  ply  their  art  in  peace  and  whether  they 
make  money  or  not  is  of  secondary  importance. 

Your  couturier's  art  is  so  very  fleeting,  so  entirely  a  thing 
of  the  minute,  that  it  must  be  sold  hot  off  the  platter  or  it  is 
worthless.  I  cannot  design  a  very  beautiful  dress  this  year 


which  someone  will  suddenly  discover  ten  years  later  and 
pay  me  a  large  sum  of  money  to  possess  and  hang  on  the 
wall.  My  whole  success  as  a  dress  designer  depends  on  my 
feeling  this  very  minute  what  my  clients  are  going  to  want 
tomorrow  and  providing  it  for  them.  The  next  day  their  lives 
may  change  and  I  must  again  provide  exactly  the  right  an- 
swer or  they  will  leave  me  to  starve. 

What  arrangements  had  been  made  by  man  to  preserve 
the  French  couturier  through  thick  and  thin,  to  continue  so 
profitably,  so  unabatingly  the  great  French  tradition?  For 
whom  has  it  been  worthwhile  to  keep  the  world  believing  that 
all  beautiful  clothes  are  designed  in  Paris  and  all  the  world 
wants  them? 

For  Mr.  Rodier,  and  Mr.  Bianchini,  and  a  number  of  the 
richest  gentlemen  in  France.  They  were  born,  perhaps,  with 
a  passion  to  make  fabrics,  a  desire  as  great  and  unceasing 
as  Vionnet's  urge  to  make  clothes.  The  results  of  their  pas- 
sion can  be  counted  in  billions  of  francs.  They  developed  not 
only  their  fabrics  but  have  kept  up  the  entire  superstructure 
necessary  to  selling  those  fabrics  to  the  whole  world  for  a 
long  period  of  time. 

The  couturiers  of  France  have  help,  in  bad  years  and  in 
good,  from  the  fabric  manufacturers.  The  French  couturiers 
are  virtually  owned  by  the  fabric  manufacturers.  Getting 
control,  financially,  of  a  dressmaking  establishment  is  quite 
easy  for  a  fabric  manufacturer.  Dressmakers,  to  all  intents 
and  purposes,  are  never  paid  by  their  private  clients.  Dress- 
makers need  an  enormous  amount  of  credit  from  the  manu- 
facturers from  whom  they  buy. 

There  is  probably  not  a  couturier  in  existence  who  could 
not  be  closed  up  by  some  fabric  manufacturer  if  the  manu- 
facturer just  saw  fit  to  collect  what  is  owed  him  at  the  mo- 


ment.  The  French  fabric  manufacturers  don't  care  to  close 
up  the  couturiers.  On  the  contrary,  they  keep  them  going. 

The  Paris  couturiers  are  the  display  windows  for  French 
fabrics.  For  every  good  model  of  a  given  fabric  designed  and 
made  by  a  top  designer,  the  fabric  house  will  sell  many  times 
the  model's  value  in  yardage.  They  sell  the  material  not  only 
through  the  designer's  house  but  through  the  other  houses 
who  copy  the  model,  in  Paris,  England,  South  America,  the 

The  French  fabric  manufacturer  doesn't  have  to  hire 
people  to  tell  him  what  kind  of  fabrics  to  make.  He  works 
directly  with  the  designers  of  clothes.  He  makes  such  and 
such  for  Vionnet,  something  else  for  Molyneux,  another  sort 
of  thing  for  Schiaparelli.  Of  course,  he  keeps  Vionnet  in  busi- 
ness. She  may  make  money  in  her  house  one  year,  lose  it  the 
next,  but  as  long  as  she  retains  her  following  of  private,  chic 
women,  she  will  be  kept  going. 

And  what  if  Vionnet  makes  a  badish  collection  one 
year?  She  is  kept  going  because  everyone  knows  that  any 
designer  has  an  off  season  now  and  then.  But  let  her  make 
four  bad  collections  in  a  row.  Finis.  Collect  the  bills.  Good- 
bye Vionnet.  Give  the  credit  to  a  new  one.  Build  her  up. 

What  does  Vionnet  get  out  of  this?  She  gets  a  salary  with 
leeway.  What  did  Patou  get?  He  got  his  gambling  debts  paid 
when  he  was  very  successful.  There  came  a  year  when  the 
rumor  floated  up  to  Paris  from  the  Riviera  that  they'd  let 
Patou  be  put  in  jail  because  he  couldn't  pay  his  gambling 
debts.  The  fabric  manufacturers  had  gotten  a  bit  weary  of 
gambling,  and  anyway,  Patou  wasn't  having  such  a  success. 
Pull  yourself  together,  Mr.  Patou,  or  we'll  collect  your  bills. 

Surely  Captain  Molyneux  has  all  the  credit  he  needs  and 
to  spare.  What  if  he  were  not  to  pay  his  bills  this  year — or 
even  next?  Think  of  the  chic  women  wearing  his  clothes. 


Rodier  sells  him  some  grey  wool.  Molyneux  makes  a  suit  of 
it.  It's  a  success.  Orders  for  the  wool  from  England,  orders 
from  the  United  States.  One  can't  even  get  the  wool  in  that 
particular  shade  of  grey.  Why  should  Rodier  care  whether 
Captain  Molyneux  ever  pays  for  the  wool  he  used?  Charge  it 
up  to  advertising.  Buy  a  new  car,  Captain  Molyneux,  but 
don't  forget  that  if  you  should  ever  make  enough  bad  suits 
in  our  wool,  we'll  collect. 

Do  the  designers  worry  about  that?  Why  should  they? 
They  do  what  they  want.  They're  artists.  They  want  to  de- 
sign beautiful  clothes  for  beautiful  women.  Rodier  and 
Bianchini  and  Ducharne,  and  all  the  fabric  men  in  France 
are  back  of  them.  Life  is  a  lovely  thing,  so  long  as  you  can 
turn  out  the  designs. 

Paul  Poiret  turned  out  the  designs  once.  He  swept  over 
Europe.  He  was  the  rage.  He  had  everything  he  wanted.  Fif- 
teen years  later  he  was  borrowing  ten  francs  from  old  ac- 
quaintances in  the  Cafe  de  la  Paix.  He  couldn't  turn  it  out 

Well,  Poiret  had  his  fun,  and  Patou  had  his.  Vionnet  will 
be  thrown  out  one  day.  But  it's  all  a  chance  one  is  glad  to 
take  if  one  has  an  irresistible  desire  to  dress  people.  How- 
ever, I  realized  in  my  garden  in  Lussac,  that  there  wasn't  any 
sense  of  Elizabeth  Hawes  taking  a  chance  with  the  fabric 
manufacturers  of  France. 

There  wasn't  any  sense  because  I  didn't  thoroughly  un- 
derstand and  sympathize  with  their  primary  clientele  of  chic 
Europeans.  The  whole  French  legend  rested  on  a  group  of 
attractive  females  whom  I  had  helped  to  publicize,  had  fol- 
lowed about  England  and  the  continent  to  some  extent,  but 
who  seemed  to  me  to  be  thoroughly  boring  people. 

Maybe  only  the  French  do  know  what's  going  to  be  chic 
next  year.  Possibly  nobody  else  will  ever  know.  What  did  I 


care?  The  system  of  keeping  the  whole  structure  upright 
made  me  sick. 

Let  them  give  the  Duchess  de  X  her  clothes,  if  she  hasn't 
the  money  to  pay  any  more.  Give  them  to  Madame  de  Y  and 
Madame  R.  In  1927 1  sat  with  four  other  people  in  Paris  and 
we  made  a  list  of  the  ten  supposedly  best-dressed  women. 
Some  one  of  us  knew  that  at  least  eight  of  them  were  dressed 
for  little  or  nothing  by  some  couturier. 

If  La  Duchess  de  X  is  dressed  by  Molyneux  in  a  certain 
little  print,  all  of  those  women  who  are  trying  like  mad  to  be 
the  Duchess  de  X  will  rush  to  Molyneux  and  probably  buy 
the  same  dress.  Who  cares  whether  she  pays?  They  pay. 
Rodier  will  give  the  silk  for  her  dress,  and  Molyneux  will 
make  it  for  nothing.  Mrs.  R  and  Mrs.  Y  and  Mrs.  Z  will 
come  and  get  one,  and  so  will  Bergdorf  Goodman,  and  Hattie 
Carnegie  and  Weinstock.  They'll  pay. 

Let  the  French  be  impolite  to  the  foreign  press.  Let  them 
invest  in  foreign  fashion  magazines  if  they  choose.  Let  them 
keep  their  prices  up.  Let  all  French  fashion  and  style  be 
shrouded  in  mystery.  Let  them  try  to  cater  to  American  buy- 
ers and  cheapen  their  designs  for  what  they  conceive  to  be 
the  American  taste. 

Let  all  the  fashion  reporters  on  earth  feed  on  the  great 
tradition  of  French  dressmaking.  Let  them  try  to  put  it  over 
for  ever  and  ever  on  the  public.  Let  all  the  advertising  de- 
partments in  the  United  States  pretend  that  all  the  things 
they  have  for  sale  are  French,  that  all  women  want  them. 

It  can't  go  on  forever.  The  edges  were  cracking  even  in 
1928.  I'd  watched  the  manufacturers  all  come  to  Paris  and 
buy  the  same  clothes.  I'd  watched  the  made-to-order  Ameri- 
can tourists  buy  them  too.  I  saw  Bergdorf  Goodman  and 
Hattie  Carnegie  take  home  those  same  models  to  copy  ex- 


Things  were  getting  more  and  more  confused.  In  New 
York  in  1928,  you  could  meet  one  lady  in  a  Chanel  she'd 
bought  on  the  rue  Cambon  for  $200.  She  could  meet  a  lady 
who'd  bought  the  same  dress  at  Hattie  Carnegie  for  $250. 
That  lady  could  meet  another  lady  who'd  bought  the  same 
Chanel  at  Lord  and  Taylor  for  $59.50.  And  there  were  the 
other  ladies  who  also  bought  the  same  Chanel,  well,  maybe 
not  the  same  material,  but  the  same  design,  for  $19.75  or 

And  quite  soon,  although  the  original  material  for  the 
dress  came  from  Rodier  and  cost  $6.50  a  yard  in  France 
and  $9.50  a  yard  in  America,  one  began  finding  the  very 
material  right  at  B.  Altman  for  $3.50  a  yard.  And  in  the 
wholesale  trade  it  was  to  be  had  anywhere  from  $1.95  to 
$2.50.  The  American  fabric  manufacturers  might  not  be 
able  to  create,  but  they  certainly  could  copy. 

It  was  becoming  futile  for  Bergdorf  and  Carnegie  to 
spend  thousands  of  dollars  for  French  models  to  copy,  made- 
to-order,  for  their  customers  in  New  York.  Every  manufac- 
turer could  buy  the  same  thing  and  make  it  in  mass  produc- 
tion. An  expensive  shop  can't  get  $250  for  the  same  shaped 
dress  which  can  be  reproduced  for  $25.  Nobody  is  going  to 
pay  $6.50  for  a  material  they  can  have  copied  for  half  the 

The  American  manufacturers,  such  as  Weinstock,  had 
been  coming  to  Paris  twice  a  year  for  a  long  enough  time. 
The  copyist  and  designers  they  brought  with  them  were 
learning  to  design  from  looking  at  thousands  of  collections 
of  French  clothes. 

More  important,  they  were  learning  just  to  look  at  the 
clothes  and  take  bits  of  them.  Out  of  the  bits  they  designed 
things  for  life  in  America,  things  for  thousands  of  women 


who  were  not  chic  and  never  would  be  in  the  true  sense  of  that 

More  and  more  often,  working  with  the  American  buy- 
ers, I  heard  the  complaint,  "This  stuff  is  no  good  for  us.  Why 
don't  they  make  some  good  afternoon  dresses?  Why  don't 
they  design  more  sport  clothes?  We  can  do  better  than  that 

While  I  was  designing  at  Nicole  Groult's,  one  Amos  Par- 
rish  arrived  in  Paris  and  called  on  me.  Amos  Parrish  was 
one  of  the  bigger  promotion  guys  of  the  mad  '20's.  He  heard 
of  me  through  the  New  Yorker.  While  I  was  quietly  follow- 
ing the  chic  life  the  New  Yorker  had  risen  to  fame  and  made 
me  a  little  famous  in  its  wake. 

Perhaps  he  meant  to  offer  me  some  sort  of  reporting  job.  I 
don't  know  because  he  was  too  bright  to  get  to  that  point.  He 
dug  enough  out  of  me  to  realize  that  I  was  going  on  designing 
clothes.  After  we  had  chattered  for  a  while,  he  left  me,  say- 
ing, "Why  don't  you  come  home  to  America  to  design? 
America  needs  designers."  The  remark  kept  coming  back 
into  my  mind  as  I  cogitated  in  Lussac. 

One  didn't  need  to  be  clairvoyant  in  France  in  1928  to 
know  that  something  was  going  to  happen  to  the  old  French 
legend.  It  was  still  serving  its  purpose.  The  clothes  were  still 
selling.  The  fabrics  were  still  selling.  The  French  and  all 
their  mouthpieces  were  still  insisting  that  all  style  and  fash- 
ion were  Parisian. 

But  they  were  being  overtaken  by  something  more  power- 
ful than  their  subtlest  publicity.  They  were  being  overtaken 
by  mass  production.  They  did  not  design  for  mass  produc- 
tion, or  for  mass  consumption.  They  designed  and  produced 
for  the  world  of  chic. 

The  French  were  doing  themselves  in  by  selling  the  man- 
ufacturers. They  were  undermining  themselves  with  their 


real  clientele,  the  made-to-order  lady,  in  foreign  countries 
by  allowing  the  snob  element  and  a  great  deal  of  the  beauty 
of  their  individual  designs  to  disappear  in  mass  production. 

I  couldn't  hope  nor  did  I  want  to  set  up  business  under 
the  old  French  system.  It  creaked.  To  an  American  it  was 
anachronistic.  There  was  something  decayed  about  the  whole 
of  Paris. 

Paris  was  not  gay.  Paris  was  the  saddest  place  on  earth. 
The  world  of  chic  which  had  its  base  there  was  gay.  The  rest 
was  grim  beyond  words.  The  men  and  women  who  worked 
for  the  chic  monde  were  not  gay. 

One  Sunday  afternoon's  walk  on  the  Champs  Elysees, 
away  from  the  world  of  chic,  winding  in  and  out  among  the 
mass  of  the  people  in  their  somber  black  holiday  clothes,  was 
enough  to  throw  a  seeing  American  mind  into  depression 
deeper  than  any  we  have  yet  survived.  Those  little  old  under- 
fed faces  on  six-year-old  children  were  not  a  pleasant  sight. 
Their  parents  had  hands  worn  out  with  carefully  sewing  up 
beautiful  clothes,  painstakingly  making  fine  metal  buckles, 
carrying  heavy  trays  of  delicious  food. 

Those  parents  are  now  upsetting  the  world  of  chic. 
They've  decided  they  want  vacations  with  pay,  enough  food 
for  their  children,  central  heating  and  baths.  When  you  order 
a  bolt  of  material  from  France  in  1937,  you  never  know 
whether  you're  going  to  get  it.  The  patient  weavers  of  Lyons 
have  decided  it  is  no  longer  going  to  be  cheaper  for  the 
fabric  manufacturers  to  keep  them  at  their  hand  looms.  They 
are  going  to  be  paid — or  the  world  of  chic  can  go  without  its 
fine  fabrics. 

It  was  all  there  to  be  seen  in  1928,  even  that  depression 
which  has  proved  the  instability  of  all  legends.  Hitler  was 
planning  right  then  to  tell  the  Germans  they  didn't  need 
French  clothes  or  materials  or  anything  which  wasn't  Ger- 


man.  Mussolini  was  already  beginning  to  convince  the 
Italians  that  they  should  be  Italian.  If  the  old  Roman  fabrics 
were  good  enough  for  Caesar,  they  are  good  enough  for  you. 

Various  South  American  countries  were  getting  into  that 
economic  jam  which  resulted  in  banning  the  export  of  their 
money.  No  more  rich  South  American  buyers  for  Paris. 
England  was  only  a  few  years  from  the  "Buy  British"  cam- 
paign. There  are  plenty  of  good  clothes  designers  in  London. 

It's  lucky  I  didn't  want  to  be  a  French  designer.  If  I  had, 
I'd  be  sitting  in  Paris  today  worrying  over  the  facts  of  life. 
I'd  be  wondering,  along  with  the  rest  of  the  couturiers, 
whether  or  not  I  shouldn't  transplant  myself  to  America,  how 
soon  Mr.  Hitler  would  be  sending  a  long  range  shot  into  my 
chic  establishment.  I'd  be  bothered  over  whether  my  chic 
world  was  not  dwindling  in  numbers  as  well  as  in  impor- 

I  would  know,  as  all  the  world  should  know,  that  many 
many  beautiful  clothes  are  designed  in  the  houses  of  the 
French  couturiers.  I  might  never  have  realized  fully,  what  I 
suspected  in  1928  and  have  since  proved,  that  all  women  do 
not  want  and  cannot  use  those  clothes. 

I  am  very  glad  that  my  reflections  in  an  acre  of  garden 
in  the  center  of  France  made  me  decide  to  come  home  to  New 
York.  After  my  two  weeks,  I  arose  to  my  feet,  returned  to 
Paris  by  the  first  train,  got  rid  of  my  apartment,  packed  up 
my  clothes,  and  sailed  back  to  America. 

I  had  simply  concluded  that,  if  the  French  could  make 
clothes  eminently  suited  to  chic  Europeans,  there  was  every 
reason  to  suppose  that  beautiful  clothes  could  and  should  be 
designed  in  the  United  States  for  whatever  kind  of  woman 
lived  there.  Eight  years  of  designing  in  the  United  States  have 
taught  me  that  it  can  be  done,  for  a  made-to-order  clientele.  I 
have  learned  why  it  is  seldom  done  for  the  ready-made  lady. 




"All  American  women  can  have 
beautiful  clothes." 




THERE  is  a  clothing  legend  in  the  United  States  as  well  as 
in  France.  Ours  is  based  on  that  old  theme  song,  "All 
men  are  created  free  and  equal"  .  .  .  they  are  entitled  to 
"life,  liberty  and  the  pursuit  of  happiness." 

The  proudly  American  clothing  boast  is  that  all  Ameri- 


can  women  can  have  beautiful  clothes.  It  goes  along  with  the 
other  legends  such  as  that  all  boys  can  get  to  be  President,  all 
children  get  a  good  education,  and  everyone  in  the  United 
States  has  "an  American  standard  of  living." 

The  reason  that  all  American  women  can,  supposedly, 
have  beautiful  clothes  is  that  we  are  the  only  country  in  the 
world  which  can  produce  garments  in  masses.  Any  woman 
in  America  can  buy  a  Chanel  dress  for  whatever  amount  she 
has  to  spend,  from  $3.75  to  $375.  Since  the  pursuit  of 
French  clothing  is  traditionally  the  pursuit  of  happiness  in 
the  feminine  sex,  all  American  women  should  be  happy. 

Lest  the  American  woman  become  too  happy  about  the 
solution  of  her  primary  want,  and  rest  quietly  on  the  bene- 
fits of  mass  production,  Fashion  has  taken  unto  himself  the 
French  legend  and  amplified  it  a  trifle.  He  moved  over  here 
from  France  when  he  noticed  that  mass  production  was  going 
to  develop  into  big  money.  Formerly  he  had  gotten  on  in  a 
small  way  by  making  Marie  Antoinette  change  the  shape  of 
her  hat  every  day  and  just  playing  little  jokes  of  that  kind 
on  the  upper  classes.  Marie  had  her  head  chopped  off  and  so 
couldn't  use  any  more  hats. 

Later  that  boor,  Louis  Philippe,  ascended  the  throne  and 
Fashion  perceived  that  a  new  era  was  commencing.  Upon  due 
consideration,  he  came  to  the  United  States  and  was  natural- 
ized. His  original  coat  of  arms  said  beneath  it:  "All  beauti- 
ful clothes  are  designed  in  France  and  all  women  want 
them."  To  this  he  appended:  "Beautiful  clothes  change  reg- 
ularly every  six  months." 

Fashion  did  this  because  he  saw  that,  if  clothes  could  be 
gotten  out  by  the  thousand  for  very  little  money,  something 
would  have  to  be  done  to  make  women  buy  a  lot  of  them  or 
there  would  be  no  profit  in  the  new  arrangements.  Whereas 
in  the  old  days,  Lucinda  paid  $175  for  her  black  dress  which 


she  then  wore  for  ten  years,  now  Mabel  was  supposedly  going 
to  be  able  to  get  a  satisfactory  black  dress  for  $15.75.  Mabel 
must  be  made  to  get  ten  black  dresses  instead  of  one. 

So  Fashion,  who  had  only  lightly  glossed  over  style  in 
the  nineteenth  century,  decided  to  make  a  super-human  ef- 
fort to  take  it  over  entirely.  He  has  so  far  succeeded  that  the 
word  "style"  is,  practically  speaking,  out  of  fashion. 

Fashion  was  in  control  of  nearly  everything  connected 
with  women's  clothing  when  I  stepped  off  my  boat  from 
France  in  September,  1928. 1  neither  knew  or  cared. 

New  York  was  wonderful.  The  climate  invigorated  me  so 
after  Paris  that  doing  four  times  as  many  things  seemed  only 
half  as  much  trouble.  Even  the  fact  that  I  had  to  pay  just  as 
much  rent  for  one  room  and  a  bath  in  Greenwich  Village  as 
I'd  had  to  pay  for  an  apartment  and  garden  in  Paris  didn't 
discourage  me. 

Cheap  American  food  was  disheartening,  but  there 
wasn't  much  time  for  eating  it  anyway.  Bathtub  gin  after 
French  wine  was  fortunately  disagreeable  enough  to  my 
palate  to  save  me  a  good  many  headaches. 

I  had  to  discover  New  York.  I  had  never  lived  there.  I'd 
shopped  there  and  danced  there  and  gone  to  the  theatre  there. 
I  thought  that  I  came  from  New  York,  but  actually,  I  knew 
very  little  about  it.  Moreover,  I  had  missed  the  inception  of 
"prosperity."  I  assumed,  as  a  good  many  other  people  did, 
that  New  York  in  1928  was  New  York  forever. 

Except  for  the  superficial  aspects  of  prosperity,  perhaps 
it  was.  The  set-up  of  the  clothing  business  remains  practically 
identical  now  as  then.  This  was,  of  course,  my  chief  pre- 
occupation. For  whom  and  how  was  I  to  design  clothes? 

To  my  knowledge  there  were  no  couturieres  in  existence, 
with  the  possible  exception  of  Jessie  Franklin  Turner.  She 
made  tea  gowns  of  her  own  design  to  order.  Everyone  else 


sold  copies  of  French  models,  made-to-order  or  ready-made 
according  to  your  choice  or  pocketbook. 

I  did  not,  in  any  case,  return  to  New  York  with  the  faint- 
est idea  of  setting  up  my  own  business.  Amos  Parrish  told  me 
America  needed  designers  and  I  assumed  that  I  would  find  a 
place  without  much  trouble. 

I  had  just  shed  the  French  Legend  and  my  task  was  to 
prove  its  lack  of  validity.  There  seemed  to  be  only  two 
choices,  one  to  go  to  Seventh  Avenue  and  design  for  a  whole- 
saler who  would  sell  my  clothes  to  stores,  the  other  to  find 
a  place  to  design  for  a  private  clientele. 

The  great  American  public,  as  always,  divided  itself  into 
two  groups,  the  made-to-order  ladies  and  the  ready-made 
ones.  A  more  apt  division  in  the  United  States  would  perhaps 
classify  the  women  who  buy  clothes  as  expensive  and  inex- 
pensive customers.  Many  women  here  who  could  afford  to 
have  clothes  made-to-order  buy  very  expensive  ready-made 
clothes.  This  is  largely  due,  I  believe,  to  the  absence  of  real 
couturieres.  It  may  be  further  due  to  the  rush  of  life  in  Amer- 
ica and  the  resulting  psychology  of  our  women  in  reference 
to  clothes. 

In  any  event,  as  I  saw  things  in  1928,  the  made-to-order 
or  expensive  lady  had  her  specialty  shops,  the  ready-made 
or  inexpensive  lady  her  department  stores.  One  big  differ- 
ence between  a  specialty  shop  and  a  department  store  is  that 
the  former  has  carpets  on  the  floor  and  the  latter  has  none. 
The  difference  between  a  specialty  shop  and  a  couturier  is 
that  the  couturier  sells  only  his  own  designs  and  those  only 
made-to-order.  The  specialty  shop  sells  anybody's  designs, 
either  made-to-order  or  ready-made.  The  department  store 
sells  everyone's  designs,  ninety-nine  percent  ready-made, 
and  always  fairly  inexpensive. 

Some  department  stores   have   made-to-order   depart- 


ments.  These,  in  general,  lose  money  and  are  maintained 
only  for  the  advertising  and  prestige  which  the  store  gets 
from  them.  The  greatest  difference  between  a  department 
store  and  the  average  American  specialty  shop  is  one  of  price 
first,  and  second,  and  far  more  important,  Service. 

Whatever  a  specialty  shop  sells  is  comparatively  expen- 
sive. This  is  because  they  sell  real  service  and  real  service 
costs  a  lot  in  America.  A  good  deal  of  what  a  woman  buys  in 
a  specialty  shop  is  not  included  in  the  purchases  afterward 
delivered  to  her  house.  But  it  is  balm  for  the  soul  and  worth 
a  good  deal  of  money  if  you  have  it. 

First,  when  an  expensive  lady  goes  shopping  for  clothes, 
she  buys  space.  She  gets  a  place  for  her  chauffeur  to  park 
nearby  so  she  won't  have  to  wait  endlessly  after  her  fitting 
for  him  to  get  the  car  from  another  block.  Her  specialty  shop, 
if  it  is  lucky,  or  thoughtful,  places  itself  in  a  geographical 
location  where  she  will  not  have  to  spend  an  hour  getting 
through  three  blocks  of  traffic  to  the  door.  The  made-to-order 
lady  should  not  have  to  smoke  seven  cigarettes  and  tap  her 
foot  a  thousand  and  fifty  times  while  a  half  hour  elapses  be- 
tween 57th  and  56th  Street.  She  does  not  have  to  worry  how 
high  the  taxi  meter  goes,  but  there  are  other  considerations 
in  avoiding  traffic,  like  nervous  indigestion. 

Next,  when  this  lady  arrives  at  the  shop,  she  buys  plenty 
of  room  to  sit  and  look  at  the  clothes  which  she  may  pur- 
chase.  She  buys  a  comfortable  chair,  and  she  buys  service. 
She  doesn't  want  or  get  just  any  salesperson,  she  gets  the  one 
she  is  used  to,  who  understands  her  and  her  problems. 

She  gets  the  unlimited  time  of  this  salesperson  who  will 
send  an  unlimited  number  of  people  out  to  shop  for  special 
colors  and  materials  for  her  dresses.  She  gets  special  design- 
ing done  for  her  if  she  wants  it.  She  refuses  to  take  the 


sketches  if  she  doesn't  like  them.  It  is  all  charged  up  to  over- 
head and  so,  ultimately,  to  her. 

If  she  is  a  made-to-order  expensive  lady,  she  buys  fit- 
tings, whatever  number  are  necessary  to  make  her  clothes 
turn  out  to  be  her  very  own.  While  in  the  fitting  room,  she 
takes  up  the  time  of  models  who  show  her  more  clothes  she 
may  or  may  not  buy.  Sometimes  she  has  a  rip  in  a  glove 
mended  while  she  waits. 

Sometimes  she  has  a  drink  of  water,  or  a  drink  of  Scotch. 
Often  she  asks  for  a  cigarette  while  she  passes  an  extra  half 
hour  talking  to  her  salesperson  until  it's  time  to  go  to  the 
next  appointment.  She  is  not  hurried  while  she  fixes  her  hair 
and  puts  on  her  make-up  before  she  leisurely  leaves. 

The  made-to-order  lady  not  only  has  an  opportunity  to 
buy  her  choice  of  style  and  fashion,  she  may  also  buy  it  at 
her  convenience  and  comfortably.  She  pays  for  it,  but  seldom 
more  than  it  is  worth. 

What  would  the  inexpensive  ready-made  lady  not  give 
to  be  able  to  settle  into  a  quiet  corner  with  an  understanding 
salesperson  and  choose  for  herself  just  what  she  really  wants 
and  needs?  But  her  fate  is  the  nerve-racking  business  of 
squeezing  herself  into  a  five  by  eight  fitting  room  to  try  on 
a  lot  of  things  she  doesn't  like  anyway,  and  she  knows  on 
walking  into  a  department  store,  that  she  can't  get  navy  blue 
in  the  fall,  which  is  enough  to  unsettle  the  most  stable 

The  department  store  offers  services,  too.  They  talk  a 
good  deal  about  them,  that  is.  But  what  are  they?  Onto  a 
$15.75  dress,  the  store  does  not  add  the  price  of  an  excellent 
salesperson,  or  even  enough  of  an  inferior  grade  to  spend 
more  than  a  few  minutes  to  each  customer.  If  there  is  one 
comfortable  chair  to  every  fifty  department  store  customers, 


that  is  a  very  high  average.  There  are  no  cigarettes,  few 
drinks  of  water,  and  no  Scotch. 

All  right,  the  ready-made  lady  can't  pay  for  it,  so  that's 
that.  I  assumed,  in  1928,  that  what  came  home  to  her  in  its 
package  was  exactly  what  she  did  pay  for. 

In  1928,  at  specialty  shops  such  as  Hattie  Carnegie  and 
Thurn  and  Bergdorf  Goodman,  I  saw  service  being  given 
and  paid  for.  I  saw  some  beautiful  clothes,  all  French  mod- 
els. I  saw  good  workmanship  and  good  quality  and  that 
business  was  booming.  Without  asking,  I  felt  quite  sure  they 
didn't  need  me.  All  their  beautiful  clothes  had  been  designed 
in  France  and,  apparently,  all  their  customers  wanted  them. 
Their  customers  looked  happy  and  satisfied. 

Getting  jostled  around  in  department  stores,  looking 
over  the  possible  purchases  of  the  ready-made  lady,  forced 
me  to  the  conclusion  that  I  just  didn't  understand  the  major- 
ity of  the  American  public.  Most  of  what  I  saw  I  wouldn't 
have  worn  at  any  price.  It  was  bad  in  quality  and  cheated  on 
cut.  It  was  Vionnet's  best  model  with  a  bow  added  to  it  for 
the  purpose  of  attracting  the  American  eye.  It  was  junked 
up  and  tricked  out  and  tawdry. 

It  was  anything  but  chic,  and  it  lacked  style.  I  was  as- 
sured that  it  was  fashionable  because  the  ads  said  so  and 
everyone  was  buying  it.  Anything  new  that  enough  people 
buy  is  fashionable  in  a  world  of  mass  production. 

I  reflected  on  the  two  publics  for  which  I  might  design 
and  I  concluded  that,  while  I  came  from  the  middle  class,  I 
no  longer  had  any  affinity  with  them.  If  what  I  saw  them 
wearing  was  the  physical  proof  of  America's  fine  and  satis- 
factory mass  production,  then  I  and  mass  production  were 
never  going  to  get  along. 

In  addition  to  what  I  saw  in  the  department  stores,  I  had 
another  fright  about  the  wholesale  clothing  business.  My 


dealings  with  Weinstock  were  fresh  in  my  mind.  I  had  gazed 
upon  the  bosses  of  American  mass  production  in  Paris.  I 
considered  them  a  bunch  of  thieves.  I  had  sold  sketches  to 
their  designers  to  such  an  extent  that  they  were  merely  copy- 
ists in  my  estimation.  I  could  not  be  under  the  illusion  that 
any  manufacturer  would  want  original  designs. 

In  any  case,  I  had  carefully  trained  myself  to  design  in- 
dividual clothes  to  be  made-to-order.  Discussions  with  my 
friends,  as  I  reviewed  the  American  clothing  field  before 
entering  it,  confirmed  my  suspicions  that,  in  spite  of  the 
services  rendered  them  by  specialty  shops,  there  were  a  num- 
ber of  women  in  New  York  who  were  not  satisfied  with  copies 
of  French  models  at  any  price. 

There  were,  and  are,  three  psychological  types  of  women 
who  count  in  America  as  far  as  their  clothing  wants  go.  We 
have  chic  women,  fashionable  women,  and  stylish  women 
here.  In  France  there  is  only  the  chic  woman  to  attend  to.  The 
rest  don't  count. 

In  England  there  are  chic  women,  as  in  France,  and 
stylish  women,  like  the  Queen  Mother.  The  fashionable 
woman  flourishes  in  large  numbers  only  in  this  land  of  mass- 
produced  clothes.  Whatever  novelty  is  bought  in  large  quan- 
tity is  fashionable  where  large  quantities  can  be  turned  out. 

Fashion  worked  fast  and  hard  on  the  women  of  Amer- 
ica. By  spending  a  great  deal  of  money,  he  frightened  a  lot 
of  them  under  his  thumb.  He  taught  a  majority  of  them  that 
they  must  try  to  be  fashionable. 

There  are  many  more  would-be  women  of  fashion  in  the 
United  States  than  chic  women  or  women  of  style.  The  fash- 
ionable woman  in  America  has  fallen  hook,  line,  and  sinker 
for  the  French  Legend.  She  scans  the  news  columns  eagerly 
for  word  of  what's  new  in  Paris.  She  worries  about  whether, 
skirts  will  be  shorter  without  reference  to  the  shape  of  her 


own  legs.  She  is  horrified  if  her  coat  is  not  the  prescribed 
color  and  shape. 

She  not  only  bows  her  head  in  prayer  to  Fashion's  Leg- 
end, all  beautiful  clothes  are  designed  in  France,  all  women 
want  them,  and  they  change  every  six  months,  but  she  is  the 
one  who  falls  for  the  cellophane  wrapper  without  examining 
the  content.  She  bought  all  the  idiotic  Eugenie  hats.  She 
bought  a  slit  skirt  when  full  skirts  were  just  on  the  verge  of 
popping  out  all  over  the  place.  She  didn't  stop  to  think  that, 
above  every  other  reason  for  not  owning  one,  she  couldn't 
walk  easily  in  a  slit  skirt. 

She  is  a  large  part  of  the  middle  class  with  some  money 
to  spend  on  clothes,  and  most  of  the  nouveau  riche  with 
plenty  of  money  to  throw  around.  She  tries  to  be  chic  and 
misses.  Nobody  ever  told  her  about  style.  She's  fashionable, 
God  help  her. 

I  didn't  feel  so  charitable  toward  her  in  1928.  I  didn't 
realize  it  really  wasn't  her  fault.  I  had  yet  to  learn  the  rami- 
fications of  the  fashion  business  in  America.  The  "fashion- 
able" American  woman  helped  to  scare  me  away  from  mass 
production.  Even  when  she  buys  expensive  clothes  they  are 
usually  ready-made.  You've  seen  her  around  in  a  black  dress 
with  a  bit  of  white  at  the  neck,  two  silver  foxes  and  a  fake  or 
real  diamond  pin  in  her  hat. 

She  is  doing  her  best  to  give  a  mass-produced  imitation 
of  French  chic.  Fashion  has  convinced  her  that  without  the 
leisurely  life,  without  the  money  and  the  lady's  maid,  she 
can  be  chic.  Fashion  has  convinced  her,  above  all,  that  qual- 
ity and  cut  are  not  what  matter,  but  his  cellophane  wrapper. 

There  are,  of  course,  a  few  really  chic  women  who  live 
in  America.  They  belong,  most  of  them,  to  the  international 
group.  They  learned  to  be  chic  in  Paris  and  they  keep  up  the 
traditions  wherever  they  go.  But  being  chic  not  only  takes  a 


great  deal  of  money  but  an  enormous  amount  of  time.  It 
practically  precludes  everything  else,  even  being  on  charity 
committees.  Half  of  one's  time  goes  getting  chic,  the  other 
half  being  seen  that  way. 

Even  very  rich  American  women  are  usually  too  oc- 
cupied to  spend  twenty-four  hours  a  day  at  it.  The  endless 
number  of  fittings  necessary  to  have  your  clothes  really  right 
and  enough  of  them  to  be  truly  chic  irks  Americans. 

The  hours  consumed  in  getting  just  the  right  shoe  to  com- 
plete each  costume  and  fitting,  and  returning  and  fitting  it 
again,  hours  so  pleasantly  passed  in  Paris,  seem  an  awful 
waste  in  New  York.  Someone  always  comes  along  as  you  are 
going  to  your  fitting  and  says,  "Let's  go  to  the  dog  show," 
or,  "How  about  a  cocktail?"  or,  trying  as  hard  as  you  can  to 
be  chic,  you  find  that,  just  when  you  made  your  fitting  ap- 
pointment, they  decided  to  have  a  committee  meeting  for 
the  Milk  Fund. 

Even  the  stereotyped  chic  life  doesn't  function  smoothly 
in  the  United  States.  The  minute  some  smart  hotel  manager 
thinks  he  has  got  everybody  coming  to  a  certain  resort,  six 
of  them  decide  it  is  all  the  bunk  and  go  to  Key  West.  You 
never  know  where  expensive  Americans  are  because  they 
go  wherever  they  like. 

You  find  them  in  Southampton  and  Newport  and  Palm 
Beach,  yes.  But  you  find  just  as  many  of  them  with  just  as 
good  names  quietly  living  along  in  Southport,  Conn., 
Topeka,  Kansas,  Chicago,  St.  Paul,  Omaha,  Los  Angeles, 
Mexico,  Canada,  France. 

The  sons  and  daughters  of  the  best  families  are  apt  to  go 
swimming  at  Jones'  Beach  right  alongside  their  servants. 
They  may  drive  dilapidated  Fords  and  wear  old  clothes  with 
perfect  aplomb.  They  drink  their  cocktails  at  the  wrong  bars 


and  live  on  the  wrong  side  of  the  railroad  tracks  if  they  think 
its  prettier  there. 

They  are  descended  from  the  pioneers  and  they  like  jazz. 
They  may  not  be  going  anywhere  in  their  high-powered  cars, 
aeroplanes  or  speed  boats,  but  no  tradition  of  chic  is  going 
to  tell  them  where  they  can't  go. 

This  curiously  American,  reckless  disregard  for  doing 
"the  right  thing"  has  its  visible  side  in  clothes.  There  are 
a  minimal  number  of  American  women,  to  be  sure,  who  go 
their  own  way  in  the  matter  of  covering  their  bodies. 

There  are,  however,  many  of  them  in  New  York,  and 
more  in  Boston,  a  number  of  dowagers  who  make  no  preten- 
tious to  chic  and  no  compromise  with  fashion.  They  dress  as 
they  please,  wear  their  hats  on  the  tops  of  their  heads  if  they 
like,  use  high  collars  when  only  low  necks  are  being  worn, 
and  generally  defy  the  demon  Fashion  with  the  best  possible 

Their  daughters  were  among  those  who  insisted  on  wear- 
ing long  full  evening  clothes  when  short  tight  ones  were  in 
fashion.  They  are  now  busy  divesting  themselves  of  their 
bathing  suits  and  otherwise  enjoying  life  according  to  their 
own  dictates  of  comfort. 

All  of  this  takes  real  character  and  is,  in  my  opinion,  the 
only  way  worth  dressing.  It  can  be  done  without  going  too 
far  on  the  "art"  side.  It  takes  courage  to  defy  the  deformed 
thief.  Only  real  people  dare  do  it. 

It  is  the  only  way  of  enjoying  clothes.  It  means  you  really 
and  truly  have  the  right  thing  to  wear  at  the  right  time  in  the 
right  place.  Unfortunately,  you  must  be  a  made-to-order  lady 
to  achieve  this  desirable  end.  You  may,  of  course,  make-to- 
order  at  home. 

You  may  make  to-order  by  tearing  off  all  the  trimming 
fashion  has  added  to  your  dress  and,  like  many  little  girls 


on  Broadway  in  1928,  putting  your  belt  up  in  your  waistline 
and  showing  off  your  figure  whether  it  is  fashionable  or  not. 
You  may  just  put  your  hat  on  the  back  of  your  head  and 
show  off  your  beautiful  fresh  young  complexion  whether 
Mrs.  de  Steele  is  doing  it  in  Paris  or  not. 

Then  you  can  have  a  good  hearty  laugh,  two  or  three 
years  later,  when  Mrs.  de  Steele  takes  up  your  natural  waist 
and  shoves  her  hat  onto  the  back  of  her  head  with  the  worst 
possible  results.  By  that  time,  you  have  probably  decided 
that  too  many  rehearsals  at  Roxy's  are  leaving  their  imprint 
and  have  put  the  brim  of  your  hat  down  over  your  face  so 
that  only  your  pearly  white  teeth  are  left  to  attract  an  ad- 
miring audience. 

You  can  thank  God  that  American  men  don't  know  any- 
thing about  chic,  because  they  just  leave  you  to  figure  out 
your  own  methods  of  getting  them  down,  regardless  of  fash- 
ion's dictates,  or  the  whims  of  a  French  countess.  You  are 
creating  your  own  style. 

We  have  an  assortment  of  stylish  women  and  girls  in 
America  and  are  developing  more.  I  see  them  spread  over 
the  campuses  of  certain  colleges.  I  see  them  flipping  out  of 
big  buildings  on  Wall  Street  at  five  o'clock,  tapping  what- 
ever kind  of  heels  they  prefer  down  the  subway  stairs. 

I  seldom  see  any  of  them  in  the  movies,  but  I  sometimes 
see  them  at  the  movies,  having  a  good  laugh  at  what  stardom 
chooses  to  think  certain  people  wear.  I  see  them  running  up 
plain  little  dresses  they  can't  buy,  and  I  see  them  in  my  own 
shop,  ignoring  the  French  Legend. 

There  are  not  many  of  them,  a  few  in  New  York,  a  few 
in  Chicago,  a  few  in  Dallas,  a  few  in  Boston.  They  are  per- 
fectly sure  of  themselves  and  their  position,  their  clothes 
and  their  friends.  They  are  not  often  photographed  or  writ- 
ten about. 


Some  of  them  were  nurtured  in  the  French  Legend  and 
all  other  legends  and  so  saw  the  futility  of  doing  the  right 
thing.  Others  of  them  never  heard  of  any  legend  and  don't 
know  what  the  right  thing  is.  Some  of  them  are  Rosie 
O'Grady  and  some  the  Colonel's  Lady. 

All  of  them  take  what  they  want  in  the  way  of  clothes, 
re-arrange  it  or  have  it  made-to-order.  Some  of  them  have 
strong,  sturdy  shoulders,  inherited  from  their  Puritan  an- 
cestors. Others  have  narrow,  under-fed  little  shoulders, 
slightly  bent  from  typing.  Whatever  their  shape,  if  there  is 
to  be  an  American  couture,  whether  it  is  produced  in  masses 
or  one  at  a  time,  these  are  the  women  who  will  sustain  it, 
nurture  it,  use  it  with  pleasure,  buy  it  with  a  laugh. 

They  have  style. 

In  1928,  I  only  had  encountered  those  women  of  style 
who  had  money  to  pay  for  it.  I  scarcely  knew  the  rest  existed 
after  my  sojourn  in  France.  I  saw  no  way  of  trying  to  design 
for  any  of  them  in  any  case.  I  felt  that  no  specialty  shop 
needed  me  and  no  wholesaler  wanted  me. 

I  went  to  consult  with  Amos  Parrish.  He  had  told  me  to 
come  home.  He  should  be  able  to  point  out  the  first  step  for 
a  designer  if  America  needed  them.  When  I  first  came  from 
the  disorder,  dust,  and  leisure  of  Paris  offices,  to  the  sky- 
scrapers of  New  York,  I  was  always  struck  dumb  in  my  in- 
terviews. Amos  Parrish  had  sat  on  a  little  chair  in  my  messy 
cubbyhole  chez  Nicole  Groult.  We  tipped  ourselves  back 
and  talked  about  life. 

In  New  York,  I  went  up  dozens  of  floors  to  enter  into  the 
outside  and  inside  waiting  rooms  of  the  vastness  which  was 
the  American  Fashion  Business.  I  finally  penetrated  the 
empty  squareness  of  Mr.  Parrish's  own  secluded  nook,  an 
acre  big,  his  office  seemed,  with  a  mammoth  desk,  quite  bare, 


of  course,  a  chair  behind  it  which  didn't  tip,  another  small 
one  beside  it  for  me. 

"I  came  home,"  I  said,  "To  design  clothes  here." 

"What  in  the  world  makes  you  think  American  women 
want  their  clothes  designed  here?"  asked  Mr.  Parrish. 

I  gazed  out  of  the  window  over  the  tops  and  into  the  tops 
of  thousands  of  buildings  which  I  began  to  believe  were  all 
filled  with  people  asking  the  same  question.  Maybe  it's  all 
a  mistake,  I  thought.  Maybe  all  the  women  in  America  have 
beautiful  clothes,  designed  by  the  French,  miraculously  and 
satisfactorily  reproduced  for  them  by  the  wholesalers. 

I  withdrew  to  the  smallness  and  dustiness  of  my  one 
room  apartment. 

I  could  not  answer  Mr.  Amos  Parrish. 

It's  taken  me  nine  years  of  very  hard  work,  but  now  I  can 
answer  him. 





IT  is  now,  ladies  and  gentlemen,  October,  1928.  It  is  cold- 
ish and  crisp  and  business  is  booming.  We  have  before  us 
a  depression,  a  returning  prosperity  and  through  it  all,  some 
twenty  billion  dollars  to  spend,  America's  clothing  budget 
for  nearly  a  decade.  This  is  how  the  story  goes :  Nobody,  as 


Amos  Parrish  suggested,  really  wanted  a  clothes  designer 
who  didn't  believe  in  the  French  Legend.  I  was  unemployed. 
I  was  broke.  I  decided  I'd  have  to  get  some  department  store 
who  hadn't  already  employed  me  in  Paris  to  give  me  a  salary 
for  doing  something,  I  didn't  know  what.  I  amassed  a  batch 
of  letters  from  kind  friends  to  various  people  in  the  selling 
end  of  clothes. 

One  day  I  wandered  into  Scribner's  to  get  a  book.  There 
I  happened  to  meet  Virginia  Vanderlip.  It  was  the  Vander- 
lips  who  had  motored  me  about  in  Italy.  I  roomed  next  to 
Narcissa  at  Vassar.  Virginia  inquired  solicitously  after  my 
welfare.  I  told  her  I  was  having  quite  a  bad  time.  She  sug- 
gested that  her  cousin,  Rosemary  Harden,  was  interested  in 
clothes  and  might  like  to  have  a  shop.  I  said  oh  and  pro- 
ceeded to  an  appointment  at  Stern  Brothers,  with  Estelle 

Fortunately,  Miss  Hamburger  was  late.  I  sat  in  an  outer 
office  waiting.  Finally  I  thought,  what  am  I  doing  here  any- 
way? I  came  home  to  design  clothes.  This  is  an  advertising 

For  the  second  time  in  three  months.  I  arose  to  my  feet 
and  fled.  The  first  time  I  fled  from  Lussac,  France,  to  New 
York.  The,  second  time  I  went  to  a  telephone  booth  and 
called  Rosemary  Harden. 

My  plans  suddenly  became  very  definite.  If  I  could  get 
her  to  start  a  business  with  me,  I  could  design  clothes.  I  was 
sure  some  people  who  could  afford  made-to-order  clothes 
didn't  want  French  models.  We  would  have  a  place  where 
they  could  get  our  models. 

Rosemary  Harden  was  a  debutante  of  the  year  before. 
She  had  good  taste  in  clothes  and  some  creative  ability.  She 
wanted  to  do  something  besides  go  to  parties.  Her  father  set 
us  up  in  business. 


It  was  my  idea  that  if  you  started  any  kind  of  business, 
you  should  begin  somewhere  near  where  you  hoped  to  end. 
In  other  words,  if  I  wanted  to  make  really  good  clothes  to 
order,  I  would  start  out  making  good,  and  therefore  expen- 
sive, clothes  to  order.  If  I  started  making  inexpensive  clothes, 
I  thought  probably  I'd  die  making  them. 

My  only  pattern  for  dressmaking  was  the  French  cou- 
ture. We  proceeded  to  set  up  a  pocket  edition  of  a  French, 

Our  shop,  called  Hawes-Harden,  was  on  the  fourth  floor 
of  8  West  56th  St.  Some  small  dressmaker  had  just  failed 
on  the  spot  and  we  inherited  a  gray  rug,  light  beige  walls, 
four  fitting  rooms  and  a  few  workroom  tables.  Into  the  show- 
room came  some  furniture  from  the  Hardens'  attic,  a  fine 
carved  cabinet  with  many  little  drawers  for  samples,  some 
English  tables  and  chairs,  a  very  large  red  velvet  couch.  The 
room  was  about  twenty-five  by  thirty-five  feet,  the  street  side 
all  windows. 

The  first  fitting  room  was  made  into  a  model  room. 
Clothes  must  be  made  and  shown  on  live  people,  I  had 
learned.  We  started  with  two  very  young  girl  models.  One 
of  them,  a  Cooper  Union  graduate,  stayed  for  three  years 
with  me.  She  not  only  modelled  but  ran  the  entire  stockroom, 
did  all  the  ordering  of  materials,  and  all  the  sketching.  Quite 
a  girl,  that.  Now  she  designs  children's  clothes  for  a  whole- 
sale house. 

The  next  two  cubbyholes  were  reserved  for  fitting.  The 
fourth  ex-fitting  room  was  the  proud  container  of  a  frig- 
idaire,  an  electric  tea  kettle  and  a  tea  set.  We  served  tea 
every  afternoon,  hot  in  winter,  cold  in  summer.  This  was 
Mrs.  Harden's  idea  and  a  life  saver  amid  the  endless  flow  of 
customers,  needles  and  pins. 


The  back  end  of  the  floor  was  a  workroom,  about  the  size 
of  the  showroom  with  a  space  cut  off  for  a  stockroom.  Here 
we  subsequently  lost  money. 

Gaily  we  started  out.  We  made  the  rounds  of  the  French 
fabric  houses  all  of  whom  maintain  New  York  offices.  It  did 
not  occur  to  me  that  anyone  made  material  in  the  United 
States.  We  ordered  what  we  liked  for  our  first  collection. 
Our  credit  was  guaranteed  by  Mr.  Harden.  Little  did  I  ap- 
preciate the  boon.  Only  later  was  I  brought  to  any  realization 
of  just  what  it  meant. 

Our  fitter  was  a  dressmaker  from  Rutherford,  a  Rou- 
manian woman,  big  and  strong  and  blond.  She  received,  I 
think,  about  $75  a  week.  The  drapers  and  finishers  were 
hired  by  putting  ads  in  the  paper.  All  made-to-order  work- 
rooms are  set  up  in  the  same  manner.  The  chief  is  the  fitter 
who  is  responsible  for  the  entire  staff  of  her  room  and  what 
they  produce.  Under  her  are  drapers,  girls  who  cut  the  orders 
from  the  muslin  patterns  which  are  made  for  the  original 
design.  These  drapers  cut  and  prepare  the  work  for  finishers 
who  sew  up  the  clothes.  Each  draper  has  from  four  to  eight 
finishers  depending  on  her  ability  to  keep  them  busy. 

Rosemary  and  I  each  made  models,  working  with  the 
fitter  as  chez  Nicole  Groult.  We  had  about  forty  things  in  the 
first  collection  which  we  showed  on  December  16, 1928. 1  re- 
member the  date  very  well  because  that  is  my  birthday.  It 
was  my  twenty-fifth.  I  had  made  a  sort  of  bet  with  myself, 
while  fiddling  about  in  Paris,  that  by  my  twenty-fifth  birthday 
I'd  get  serious. 

I  later  learned  that  nobody  ever  opens  a  shop  of  that 
type  except  in  the  early  fall.  Expensive  clothes  sell  much 
better  in  the  fall  since  the  women  are  going  to  be  in  town  and 
must  have  their  best  clothes  for  being  social.  In  the  spring, 
everyone  is  thinking  about  going  to  the  country.  People  use 


a  lot  of  inexpensive  sport  clothes.  We  do  nearly  two-thirds 
of  our  yearly  Hawes  business  in  the  fall. 

Anyway,  I  didn't  know  much  of  anything  in  1928  except 
that  I  wanted  to  design  clothes  and  I  was  doing  it.  We  had  a 
cocktail  party  for  friends  and  the  press.  My  time  in  France 
had  taught  me  the  value  of  the  press.  I  had  not  yet,  however, 
learned  about  American  press  agents.  We  were  our  own 
press  agents. 

Frank  Crowninshield  announced  at  our  opening.  He  was 
a  friend  of  Mr.  Harden's.  With  him  came  Vogue.  Harper's 
Bazaar  was  there  because  I  knew  someone  on  it.  Other 
women's  magazines  were  there  for  the  same  reason.  Alice 
Hughes  was  brought  by  someone.  Everyone  was  pleasant 
and  gave  us  a  boost. 

We  were  off .  Rosemary  and  I  did  all  the  selling.  We  had 
an  outside  bookkeeper  who  came  in  once  a  week,  checked  the 
bills  and  kept  up  the  books.  I  ran  the  check  book.  The  two 
models  did  everything  else  except  sweep  the  floor.  That  was 
done  by  the  elevator  man.  We  were  a  closely  knit  and  not 
too  inefficient  organization  on  the  whole. 

The  fitter  did  her  best  to  fit  as  I  wanted  her  to.  I  think 
every  young  designer  in  America  starts  with  the  same  prob- 
lem. Years  later,  when  you  are  paying  out  hundreds  of  dol- 
lars for  the  best  fitter  you  can  hire  at  any  price,  you  hear 
tales  about  how  your  clothes  don't  fit. 

My  early  fitters  come  particularly  to  mind  because  cer- 
tainly Hawes-Harden  was  set  up  with  very  definite  princi- 
ples. The  first  was  that  we  would  design  everything  we  sold 
and  that  it  would  be  made-to-order  of  good  material,  well 
sewn,  and  well  fitted. 

We  had  our  troubles  with  those  principles,  since,  for  one 
thing,  excellent  fitters  are  hard  to  get  and  cost  a  great  deal 
of  money,  how  much  I  did  not  realize  in  the  beginning.  The 


best  fitters  get  a  good  hundred  dollars  a  week  all  the  year 
around  and  are  well  worth  it. 

After  you  have  your  good  fitter,  she  has  to  train  a  com- 
plete workroom  as  the  standards  of  workmanship  in  New 
York  are  anything  but  high.  It  took,  I  should  say,  a  full  four 
years  to  be  able  to  live  up  to  my  first  principles  in  re  work- 

What  I  hoped  to  do  in  the  shop,  in  selling  my  designs, 
was  equally  clear  to  me  from  the  beginning.  I  wanted  to 
thoroughly  satisfy  the  desires  of  any  number  of  people  who 
turned  out  to  like  my  way  of  designing.  I  did  not  intend  to 
try  and  please  a  fashionable  clientele  who  labored  under 
the  delusion  that  all  clothes  were  designed  in  France. 

We  were  definitely  not  in  a  position  to  furnish  all  the 
service  which  expensive  specialty  shops  like  Bergdorf  and 
Carnegie  gave.  We  were  limited  in  space,  lodged  on  a 
crowded  street.  We  did  not  have  enough  salespeople  to  go 
around.  We  committed  every  sin  of  omission  possible  in  the 

We  often  found  it  advisable  to  send  the  proper  flowers 
with  evening  clothes  to  placate  the  irate  customer  for  being 
an  hour  late  to  dinner  in  her  new  Hawes-Harden  dress.  We 
kept  people  waiting  hours  for  fittings,  sometimes  days. 

There  was  one  and  only  one  boast  that  Hawes-Harden 
could  rightfully  make.  Nothing  which  was  bought  from  us 
could  be  bought  anywhere  else  at  any  price.  It  was  not  al- 
ways quite  as  well  made  and  fitted  as  some  of  our  competi- 
tors in  made-to-order  clothes,  but  it  was  really  exclusive! 

This,  as  I  had  suspected,  proved  a  sufficient  inducement 
to  a  public  wearied  and  sickened  by  copies  of  French  mod- 
els. They  came  in  to  look,  often  remained  to  buy. 

When  I  showed  my  first  collection  in  New  York  in  1928, 
the  general  opinion  was  that,  if  by  any  chance  I  could  suc- 


cessfully  design  clothes  without  going  to  France  to  copy,  it 
was  just  a  fluke.  At  first  I  argued,  but  eventually  I  was  too 
busy  making  clothes  to  talk  about  it. 

Perhaps  I  deserved  a  reputation  for  eccentricity.  I  think 
not,  but  I  laid  the  ground  for  it  with  my  own  hand.  In  the 
first  collection  in  1928,  I  showed  a  dress  with  a  very  long 
name.  It  was  called  "1929,  perhaps — 1930,  surely."  It  was 
reminiscent  of  a  Recamier  model,  high-waisted  with  a  little 
top  hugging  the  breasts,  and  a  skirt  long  to  the  floor  and 
straight  in  the  front,  sweeping  out  behind  to  make  a  short 

Most  people  smiled  politely  and  appeared  to  attribute 
it  all  to  youth  and  impudence.  Skirts  were  just  beginning  to 
go  down  by  dint  of  dipping  in  back  or  on  the  side.  Waists 
were  still  around  the  hips.  Yet  almost  anyone  who'd  been 
following  style  the  last  few  years  must  have  realized  that 
the  natural  waist  was  already  practically  accepted,  the  long 
skirt  the  obvious  desire  of  the  women.  They  had  come 
around  to  the  point  where  freedom  and  masculinity  were 
no  longer  one  and  the  same  thing  in  their  minds.  They  had 
proven  they  could  be  free  in  the  twenties  with  their  straight, 
shapeless  clothes  and  now  they  were  ready  to  be  feminine 

The  catch  was,  of  course,  that  although  this  was  apparent 
in  France  where  there  were  many  designers  working  out 
their  new  ideas  and  trying  them  out  slowly,  in  America  there 
were  practically  no  designers.  And  the  American  buyers 
were  funny  people.  They  always  bought  the  new  version  of 
what  they  had  already  seen  the  season  before.  They  never 
even  looked  at  the  really  new  things. 

Manufacturers  and  department  stores  are  not  in  business 
to  experiment.  They  are  in  business  to  make  money.  In  the 
realm  of  clothes,  they  are  very  happy  to  have  the  French 


couturier  experiment.  When  the  couturier  has  become  cer- 
tain of  what  he  is  doing,  when  he  puts  out  eighty  percent  of 
his  collection  with  natural  waistlines,  then  the  stores  buy 
them.  Then  the  manufacturers  see  and  buy  them.  Then  the 
ready-made  lady  can  have  a  version  of  them. 

The  stupidity  of  it  is  that  the  manufacturers  don't  try  to 
see,  or  are  incapable  of  seeing,  the  seeds  of  what  is  to  follow 
in  each  new  collection  of  clothes.  This  is  the  reason  that  when 
whole  collections  of  long  skirts  came  out  in  France  in  1930, 
the  manufacturers  were  appalled.  They  let  it  be  known  that 
there  had  been  a  revolution  in  fashion,  a  spontaneous  burst 
of  long  skirts  in  the  midst  of  a  short-skirted  world. 

This  was  sheer  nonsense.  I  had  observed  it  all  coming 
along  in  France  in  1928  before  I  left  Paris.  I  wasn't  making 
any  wild  childish  bet  when  I  put  in  my  "1930,  surely" 
dress.  The  manufacturers,  as  a  group,  have  about  as  little 
idea  of  what's  going  on  in  the  world  as  two-year-old  children. 
The  French  Legend  had  them  by  the  neck  in  those  days.  It 
still  has. 

Of  course,  if  the  entire  population  of  the  United  States 
had  believed  Fashion's  Legend  in  1928, 1  never  would  have 
been  able  to  get  my  business  started.  It  was  definitely  the 
fashion  to  wear  French  clothes.  Fortunately  for  me  there  are 
those  women  in  America  as  in  other  countries  who  don't  give 
a  thought  to  fashion. 

If  my  life  had  depended  on  the  fashionable  woman  in 
1928,  I  would  have  failed.  Those  of  them  who  got  into  the 
shop  by  mistake  used  to  raise  their  eyebrows  and  say  to  my 
anatomical  clothes,  fullish-skirted  and  natural-waisted  al- 
most from  the  beginning,  "Are  these  smart?  I  never  saw 
anything  like  them."  Then  they  would  say,  "Haven't  you 

Sometimes  a  bunch  of  them  would  come  in  together, 


rather  drunk  after  lunch.  They'd  sit  and  insult  the  clothes 
until  we  just  politely  suggested  that,  if  they  didn't  like  the 
designs,  there  was  really  no  use  of  wasting  their  time. 

Fortunately,  it  was  all  made  up  for  by  the  people  who 
began  to  get  an  affinity  for  Hawes  clothes.  Like  every  cou- 
turier, I  only  make  my  version  of  the  current  styles.  I  never 
expected  to  dress  the  entire  population.  A  growing  number 
of  people  discovered  Hawes-Harden  with  cheers. 

Most  of  our  original  customers  were  people  who  had 
been  used  to  buying  clothes  in  Paris.  They  were  in  the  proc- 
ess of  giving  it  up.  Everything  they  bought  over  there  was 
copied  and  cheapened.  They  were  looking  for  a  couturier 
who  didn't  cater  to  the  manufacturers  and  the  department 
stores.  They  were  looking  for  something  which  was  origi- 
nal without  being  eccentric.  They  were  looking  for  the  right 
clothes  for  life  in  America. 

For  every  insult  there  was,  thank  Heaven,  one  of  those 
lovely  ladies  who  took  a  look  and  said,  "Where  have  you 
been  all  my  life?" 

The  model  of  "1929,  perhaps  .  .  ."  went  to  a  young 
lady  from  Boston  who  has  probably  been  wearing  it  ever 
since.  I  find  I  have  quite  good  luck  with  Bostonians.  They  are 
the  kind  of  people  who  do  what  they  choose.  Some  of  them 
choose  to  wear  their  hats  on  the  tops  of  their  heads,  others 
wear  no  hats  at  all.  Some  of  them  wear  tailored  suits  year  in 
and  year  out.  Others  of  them  got  into  my  full  skirts  the  minute 
I  put  them  out. 

Exactly  where  did  those  first  customers  come  from? 
Sometimes  I  wonder  myself.  We  had  friends,  both  Rosemary 
Harden  and  myself  and  they  did  it  all.  They  went  about  talk- 
ing us  up.  They  brought  their  friends  in  for  tea.  We  had 
cocktails  about  once  a  month  and  lots  of  young  men  came. 
They  went  out  and  talked  very  loud. 


I'm  not  quite  sure  about  talkative  men  and  new  clients 
for  young  dressmakers.  It  is  said  that  Chanel  got  her  start 
after  the  war  by  hiring  all  the  ex-aviators  to  bring  in  the 
women.  It  sounds  plausible. 

On  the  other  hand,  often  when  a  man  talks  up  a  dress- 
maker, the  lady  to  whom  he  speaks  begins  to  concentrate  en- 
tirely on  what  the  dressmaker  looks  like  and  why  the  young 
man  is  talking  her  up,  why  he  cares.  I  know  of  a  few  instances 
where  ladies  were  talked  out  of  coming  to  Hawes-Harden. 

Who  talked  some  of  them  in,  I  can't  imagine.  I  never 
knew,  for  instance,  how  Lynn  Fontanne  got  into  the  shop. 
One  day  I  came  in  from  lunch  and  there  sat  an  attractive  lady 
talking  to  Rosemary  about  raising  rabbits.  She  stayed  on 
and  on,  even  for  tea.  We  were  all  in  a  nervous  jitter  because 
we  weren't  sure  whether  it  was  she. 

Finally  she  said,  "I  think  I  will  bring  Alfred  to  look  at 
that  dress." 

It  was  the  beginning  of  a  very  nice  experience  in  my  life, 
and  also  a  somewhat  unfortunate  one.  I  adored  making 
clothes  for  Fontanne.  She  knew  exactly  what  she  wanted.  She 
could  wear  anything  she  wanted  to  because  she  was  so  ab- 
solutely sure  of  herself. 

The  unfortunate  thing  was  that  I  made  my  first  theatre 
clothes  for  her.  It  gave  me  a  very  false  idea  of  stage  people 
and  clothes.  I  thought,  after  working  with  Lynn  Fontanne, 
that  when  an  actress  dressed  for  a  play,  she  dressed  for  the 
part  in  the  play. 

I  did  "Meteor"  for  her  and  the  first  act  dress  was  sup- 
posed to  be  definitely  dull.  I  put  myself  out  to  make  some- 
thing as  banal  in  pink  chiffon  as  ever  walked  out  of  a  de- 
partment store  for  $29.50.  It  was  what  the  girl  in  the  play 
would  have  worn.  It  was  what  Fontanne  wanted.  It  was  right. 


It  had  a  short  skirt  although  longer  skirts  were  definitely 
coming  in. 

Well,  everyone  raised  hell  with  me  for  doing  such  a  dull 
dress.  I  didn't  mind  that.  What  I  did  mind  was  that,  later  in 
life,  I  found  out  most  actresses  don't  even  try  to  dress  for  any 
part  in  any  play.  They  just  dress  themselves  as  they  like  and 
if  they  turn  out  to  feel  like  wearing  velvet  and  fox  fur  in  a 
camp  in  Alaska,  you  can  make  it  or  lose  the  order.  I  have 
lately  mostly  lost  theatrical  orders.  It  saves  wear  and  tear 
on  the  nervous  system. 

I  might  add,  for  those  who  don't  know,  that  most  theat- 
rical producers  think  doing  stage  clothes  is  good  advertis- 
ing. They  expect  to  get  them  for  next  to  nothing.  Usually  they 
do  and  usually  the  clothes  look  that  way.  Even  when  they  de- 
cide to  pay,  the  producer,  the  director,  the  stage-manager, 
the  author  and  the  author's  wife  are  liable  to  turn  up  and  say 
all  debutantes  wear  fox  fur  and  velvet  in  the  afternoon. 
When  you  insist  that  all  good  debutantes  wear  tweed  suits 
most  afternoons,  they  just  look  outraged. 

They've  taught  their  public  to  think  that  debutantes  wear 
fox  furs,  so  there  you  are.  As  to  the  advertising  value  of  a 
theatrical  production,  if  one  is  making  clothes  for  women 
of  individuality,  the  last  thing  they  want  is  to  see  one  of  their 
dresses  on  the  stage  from  which  it  is  sure  to  be  copied  for 
$19.75  at  once.  ._. 

The  few  actresses  I  now  dress  come  to  me  mostly  for 
clothes  to  use  off  the  stage.  This  is  less  wearing.  It  only  in- 
volves helping  them  to  be  themselves  with  no  manager  to 
step  in  and  say,  "All  young  girls  wear  white  tulle." 

Rosemary  and  I  never  dressed  any  young  girl  in  white 
tulle.  We  were  not  the  ruffly  type.  We  made  bias  satin  to  our 
hearts  content,  badly  at  first,  better  later. 

It  was  quite  pally.  Everyone  knew  me  as  "Babe"  in  those 


days,  and  we  were  Babe  and  Rosie  to  our  clientele.  It  threat- 
ened to  become  a  little  too  cute  at  times.  More  and  more 
people  took  to  coming  for  tea.  Rosemary  often  took  pity  on 
the  errand  girl  and  sent  the  family  Rolls  Royce  to  deliver  the 

The  Rolls  Royce  kicked  back  later.  When  I  had  to  hire 
new  girls  for  the  workroom,  I  would  ask,  "How  much  have 
you  been  earning?"  They  would  preface  their  answer  with 
the  question,  "Are  you  the  two  girls  who  deliver  clothes  in  a 
Rolls  Royce?" 

We  did  $60,000  worth  of  business  the  first  year  and  lost 
$10,000. 1  didn't  know  why  at  the  time.  Mr.  Harden  was  the 
proverbial  angel.  It  seemed  to  be  more  or  less  assumed  that 
everyone  lost  money  the  first  year  they  ran  a  business.  When 
we  ran  out  of  money,  we'd  call  up  and  ask  for  more. 

Then  we'd  run  out  into  the  showroom  and  take  care  of 
another  customer.  Some  of  them,  like  Fontanne,  knew  ex- 
actly what  they  wanted  the  minute  they  saw  it.  Others  wanted 
to  be  told  what  they  wanted.  My  sales  technique  is  based  on 
my  idea  that  couturiers  are  not  miracle-makers. 






nr^HE  job  of  being  a  couturier  is  perfectly  simple  to  state, 
JL  if  not  to  achieve.  The  only  attribute  which  a  successful 
couturier  has  that  could  possibly  be  considered  odd  is  his 
initial  desire  to  make  clothes  at  all. 

Given  some  curious  childhood  twist  or  background  which 


leads  him  to  have  a  special  feeling  for  the  shapes  of  women's 
bodies,  a  desire  to  drape  them,  enhance  their  beauty  accord- 
ing to  his  own  ideas,  the  couturier  quickly  picks  up  a  feeling 
for  the  hang  of  materials,  a  preoccupation  with  their  colors. 

To  these  he  must  add  the  tools  of  his  trade,  the  ability  to 
sketch  dresses  or  cut  fabrics  or  both,  a  knowledge  of  how 
clothes  are  sewn  up.  If  he  can  combine  these  with  a  partic- 
ular sensitivity  to  the  Zeitgeist  as  it  is  to  be  expressed  in 
clothes,  he  will  be  successful.  Any  dress  designer  must  know 
and  thoroughly  understand  his  clientele  and  their  lives. 
Otherwise  he  will  fail  to  fulfill  his  function. 

His  function  as  a  couturier  is  to  make  really  stylish 
clothes  which  are  not  eccentric  but  are  in  the  spirit  of  the 
times.  This  is  not  complicated  when  one  deals  directly  with 
the  women  who  are  going  to  wear  one's  designs.  An  important 
part  of  the  designing  is  what  one  discovers  while  selling. 

The  couturier  must  know  ahead  of  time  what  his  cus- 
tomers are  going  to  want.  He  must  prepare  it  for  them,  show 
it  to  them.  If  he  has  understood  his  clientele,  they  will  im- 
mediately recognize  the  new  clothes  as  what  they  have  been 
wanting  in  a  mute  manner.  They  will  buy  them  and  wear 
them  with  pleasure  for  years. 

A  good  deal  of  the  mystery  surrounding  the  creation  of 
new  styles  may  be  attributed,  I  think,  to  the  French  Legend. 
In  connection  with  all  designers  being  French  and  working 
in  Paris,  a  vague  idea  has  been  built  up  that  the  couturier 
works  in  a  mystic  manner  which  the  ordinary  mortal  could 
not  hope  to  comprehend.  Nonsense. 

The  French  couturiers  and  all  couturiers  are  in  the  con- 
stant process  of  trying  out  new  things,  different  lines.  No 
couturier  goes  off  into  a  trance  and  emerges  with  something 
brand  new  for  the  next  season. 

What  happens  is  very  simple.  You  must  allow  that  your 


couturier  has  on  hand  one  collection  of  clothes  which  has 
proven  satisfactory  to  his  clientele.  This  present  collection 
contains  sixty  percent  of  things  which  are  merely  variations 
on  clothes  of  the  season  before.  It  may  even  contain  eighty 
percent  of  such  clothes.  The  colors  are  different,  the  fabrics 
are  different,  but  the  lines  are  fundamentally  the  same. 

A  close  look  at  department  store  ads  makes  it  obvious. 
Most  of  the  time  when  you  see  four  brand  spanking  new 
original  French  designs,  you  will  perceive  that  three  of  them 
are  that  dress  you  bought  last  year  with  another  belt.  The 
fourth  may  look  a  little  odd,  a  bit  unusual.  You  examine  it 
and  decide  whether  or  not  you  want  something  a  little  dif- 
ferent or  whether  you  are  not  perfectly  satisfied  with  a  new 
version  of  last  year's  dress. 

It  is  the  fourth  and  slightly  different  dress  which  occu- 
pies the  special  part  of  each  couturier's  collection  given  over 
to  experimentation.  For,  while  making  up  orders  for  cus- 
tomers, looking  over  new  materials,  traveling  around  the 
world,  the  couturier  has  come  to  the  conclusion  that,  for  in- 
stance, although  skirts  have  been  very  tight,  they  have  been 
that  way  long  enough.  Women  must  be  ready  to  have  full 
skirts,  he  says. 

He  does  not  proceed  to  make  an  entire  collection  with 
full  skirts.  He  puts  in  two  or  three  and  watches  what  happens 
to  them.  He  finds  Mrs.  Brown,  who  is  a  really  charming  and 
intelligent  lady  of  great  style,  buys  one  of  those  dresses.  She 
wears  it  and  reports  that  not  only  she  likes  it,  but  that  she  has 
received  many  compliments. 

At  the  same  time,  four  other  women  order  dresses  with 
full  skirts.  Two  of  them  weaken  during  the  fittings.  "My  hips 
look  too  wide,"  they  say.  The  fullness  is  taken  out  from  the 

"Well,"  says  the  couturier  to  himself,  "I  can't  make  all 


the  skirts  full  even  next  season  but  if  four  really  stylish 
women  out  of  a  hundred  liked  them  this  time,  then  twenty 
will  want  them  next  time."  He  proceeds  on  the  basis  of  trial 
and  error  to  find  out  what  the  women  are  going  to  want  and 
gives  it  to  them. 

This  is  the  routine  and  the  rigmarole  and  the  mystery 
through  which  the  couturier  goes  in  order  to  establish  in 
his  own  mind  what  the  style  is  going  to  be.  It  is  not  magic. 
It  is  work. 

The  end  is  not  reached  with  discovering  that  women  want 
full  skirts  or  high  waists.  It  is  not  even  approached.  One  must 
begin  by  clearly  understanding  the  Zeitgeist,  the  spirit  of  the 
times,  which  is  influencing  clothes  and  architecture  and  paint- 
ing and  politics.  The  first  success  of  Chanel  can  clearly  be 
seen  to  have  depended  entirely  on  her  complete  grasp  of  the 
Zeitgeist  after  the  war. 

Prior  to  the  world  war,  women  had  led  the  major  part 
of  their  lives  within  their  homes,  chiefly  in  the  capacity  of 
housewives.  Their  social  activity  was  definitely  restricted 
and  it  was  the  rare  woman  who  golfed,  ran  an  automobile, 
engaged  in  what  were  considered  masculine  pursuits. 

During  the  war,  a  really  large  proportion  of  the  female 
population  got  loose  and  declared  for  Freedom.  They  found 
that  Freedom  was  incompatible  with  tight  corsets  and  an 
emancipated  few  threw  away  their  stays  then  and  there.  A 
large  number  of  these  women  became  very  confused.  They 
thought  that  to  be  free  meant  to  be  masculine.  They  tried  to 
make  their  bodies  masculine.  First  they  took  up  very  tight 
brassieres  with  which  they  bound  their  breasts  and  flattened 

They  all  began  looking  around  for  some  kind  of  clothes 
to  conceal  their  feminine  curves.  Chanel  rose  to  international 
fame  as  the  answer  to  a  post-war  woman's  prayer.  Chanel 


epitomizes  the  most  hideous  period  in  women's  dress.  She 
understood  the  times  and  she  responded. 

She  gave  these  women  little  chemises  to  wear.  She  showed 
them  how,  by  putting  their  belts  around  their  hips,  they 
would  look  straight  like  boys.  They  needn't  be  self-conscious 
about  taking  off  their  corsets.  Neither  they  nor  the  clothes 
would  have  any  shape.  Carried  away  with  the  joy  of  it  all, 
the  women  began  cutting  the  hems  off  their  skirts.  They  never 
stopped  cutting  until  skirts  reached  their  knees. 

No  reasonable  person  could  maintain  that  any  one  de- 
signer, or  any  hundred  designers,  could  have  decided  all 
alone  or  in  conclave  to  do  away  with  the  wasp  waist,  do  away 
with  the  breast,  do  away  with  the  hip,  expose  the  unmen- 
tionable leg  and  be  allowed  to  live.  The  lives  and  desires 
of  the  women  underwent  a  fundamental  change.  Chanel  hap- 
pened to  show  them  the  clothes  for  it  and  to  enjoy  designing 
those  clothes. 

All  very  well  for  the  old  Lucille  to  say  in  the  twenties, 
"The  designers  of  today  are  nothing  but  creators  of  che- 
mises." Life  was  demanding  chemises.  Chanel  was  handing 
them  out.  First  she  probably  handed  out  one.  The  second 
season,  she  made  six.  By  the  second  year,  the  whole  world 
was  making  them  too. 

This  is  not  magic.  This  is  merely  understanding,  under- 
standing and  trying  it  out.  Trial  and  error,  error  and  trial. 

Perhaps  because  I  am  so  entirely  convinced  that  no  de- 
signer can  function  without  direct  contact  with  his  clientele, 
I  feel  that  the  business  of  selling  clothes  should  be  based 
on  as  great  a  knowledge  as  possible  of  one's  customers. 

I  believe  no  reasonable  woman  should  assume  that  any 
couturier  can  look  at  her  and  know  instantly  what  sort  of 
clothes  she  will  wear  with  pleasure.  The  business  of  dressing 
people  does  not  seem  to  me  to  consist  merely  in  making  your 


customer  buy  a  dress  in  which  she  looks  well  to  an  abstract 
eye  in  the  fitting  room. 

It's  the  beginning,  but  it  isn't  sufficient  just  to  dress 
the  outer  woman.  Carlyle  says  that  clothes  are  "warm  move- 
able  houses  in  which  we  live."  To  dress  satisfactorily,  one 
must  know  how  one  wants  to  live  in  the  house.  This  practi- 
cally involves  a  psychoanalysis  of  some  customers. 

The  process  is  something  like  this: 

Mrs.  Jones  comes  in  and  says,  "Dress  me." 

We  can  see  her  plainly,  but  we  don't  know  a  single  thing 
about  Mrs.  Jones.  And  the  joke  is  that  Mrs.  Jones  really  tries 
not  to  tell  us  anything. 

"The  suit  I  have  on,"  she  says,  "is  something  I  never 
really  wear." 

That's  lucky,  we  say  to  ourselves,  because  it  certainly  is 
unbecoming.  Aloud  we  say,  "Do  you  like  suits?" 

"Sometimes,"  she  answers  and  subsides. 

"Just  what  do  you  need?"  we  ask. 

"Oh,  everything,"  she  explains  fully. 

Is  she  rich,  is  she  poor,  does  she  go  out  often  or  does  she 
stay  at  home? 

"Suppose  we  look  at  the  collection,"  we  suggest,  "then 
you  can  pick  what  you  like  and  we  will  get  an  idea  what 
you  need." 

We  look  at  the  collection.  A  blue  dress  appears.  We  say, 
"That  would  be  a  becoming  color  for  you." 

"I  hate  blue,"  she  answers  firmly,  "but  of  course  I  will 
leave  everything  to  you." 

"Perhaps  this  color  red  appeals  to  you?" 
"No,  I  absolutely  never  wear  red.  I  also  have  a  supersti- 
tious aversion  to  yellow.  Then,  as  I  say,  I  dislike  blue  in- 

A  bias  cut  dress  walks  in.  Mrs.  Jones  hastily  draws  out 

a  cigarette.  "I'd  better  tell  you  at  once,"  she  says,  "that  I 
can't  wear  bias  dresses.  They  always  go  in  under  my  tail." 

She  rises  to  let  us  inspect  her  tail.  We  can't  find  it  any- 
where. She  has  none.  "But,  you  are  perfectly  flat  in  the  back," 
we  exclaim. 

Mrs.  Jones  looks  doubtful.  "Perhaps  I  am,  but  I  feel  as 
if  they  go  in  under  my  tail." 

As  a  half  hour  and  thirty  dresses  pass,  we  learn  that  Mrs. 
Jones  doesn't  like  pleats,  she  likes  to  play  bridge,  she  hates 
chiffon,  she  loves  flared  skirts,  she  is  in  despair  because  her 
old  dressmaker  has  gone  out  of  business,  her  son  is  seven- 
teen years  old  and  goes  to  Hotchkiss.  We  learn  almost  every- 
thing about  Mrs.  Jones  except  the  essential  thing,  what  does 
she  want  to  look  like  in  her  clothes? 

Does  she  fancy  herself  as  a  tall  blonde,  although  she 
looks  to  us  like  a  small  brunette,  or,  more  important,  does  her 
husband  fancy  her  as  a  tall  blonde?  Does  she  go  all  girlish 
in  the  evening  and  love  it,  or  is  she  haughty  and  bored  at 

"Do  you  want  clothes  to  wear  to  the  theatre?"  we  hazard. 

"Oh  no.  I  never  go  to  the  theatre.  We  go  out  a  great  deal, 

"To  nightclubs?" 

"No — dinner  mostly." 

Then  I  have  tried  asking  the  questions  I  want  an  answer 
to  with  the  following  results  about  ninety-nine  times  out  of 
a  hundred. 

"Mrs.  Jones,  look  here.  What  I  want  to  know  is,  when 
you  are  going  to  wear  this  evening  dress,  will  you  be  trying 
to  appear  sophisticated  and  worldly  or  do  you  want  to  look 
like  your  son's  sister?" 

"Heavens,  Miss  Hawes,  how  do  I  know?  Some  people 


say  I  look  like  my  son's  sister  and  the  other  people  think  I 
look  as  if  I  were  a  vampire." 

"Well,  what  I  want  to  know  is,  which  do  you  prefer?" 

At  this  point  Mrs.  Jones  is  not  trying  to  hold  back.  She 
doesn't  know.  She  doesn't  even  know  exactly  where  she  will 
wear  the  dress.  She  doesn't  know  just  what  effect  she  will 
be  trying  to  make  in  it. 

It  isn't  as  if  she  didn't  want  to  make  an  effect  on  some- 
one somewhere  for  some  reason.  She  just  has  never  taken 
time  off  to  decide  what  kind  of  a  person  she  either  is  or  wants 
to  appear  to  be.  Therefore  she  misses  half  the  fun  of  buying 
clothes  and  makes  it  just  twice  as  difficult  for  her  dressmaker 
and  herself. 

If  some  lady  came  in  to  me  (and  sometimes  they  do) 
and  said,  "Look  here,  I'm  forty-seven  and  I  have  grey  hair 
and  look  rather  severe  and  forbidding.  It  is  essential  to  me 
that  on  Wednesday,  March  seventeenth,  at  eight  o'clock,  I 
look  thirty-five  and  very  very  appealing.  I  will  be  in  a  mod- 
ern living  room  with  dark  gray  walls  and  silver  and  white 
furniture.  There  will  be  yellow  flowers.  I  am  a  perfect  thirty- 
six  except  for  my  chest  which  is  flat.  My  breasts  droop  a 
little  and  one  of  my  hips  is  two  inches  bigger  than  the  other. 
What  shall  we  do?"  Then  I  can  whip  out  an  answer  in  the 
guise  of  a  few  possible  dresses. 

Naturally,  most  of  the  time  the  scene  cannot  be  set,  but 
the  rest  of  it  should  be  told  at  all  times.  The  rest  of  it  is 
rarely  told  and  something  else  happens.  If  by  some  chance 
you  or  she  picks  the  right  dress  the  first  time,  then  you've  got 
a  customer  and  over  a  few  seasons  you  can  then  discover 
what  she  really  needs. 

I  do  not  mean  that  any  good  designer  cannot  look  at 
any  woman  and  say,  "The  line  of  this  dress  will  be  becom- 


ing  to  your  figure  and  this  material  and  this  color  will  make 
you  look  handsome."  The  trouble  is,  that  is  not  enough. 

Fortunately  some  women  have  themselves  all  analyzed. 
It's  a  wonderful  pleasure  to  watch  them  choose  clothes,  to 
help  them  out.  If  they  see  what  they  want,  they  recognize  it 
immediately.  If  they  don't  see  it,  they  give  you  the  proper 
tipoff,  "It  would  be  that  dress,"  pointing  to  a  red  velvet  robe 
de  style,  "if  it  were  taffeta  and  had  a  tight  skirt."  Right  away 
you  see  that  it  is  the  beguiling  neckline  and  the  swish  that 
will  do  the  trick  they  have  in  mind. 

Other  customers  slowly  give  themselves  away  to  you  by 
odd  remarks  in  fittings.  "You  know  that  green  damask  dress 
you  made  for  me?  I  feel  right  in  that  dress." 

My  goodness,  you  say  to  yourself,  the  girl  likes  romantic 
clothes  even  though  she  does  wear  her  hair  that  way.  The 
next  time  she  comes  in  you  say,  "Why  don't  you  try  having 
your  hair  curled  lower  in  the  back  and  cut  with  bangs  over 
the  right  eye?" 

It's  rather  fun  but  it  takes  an  inordinate  amount  of  time. 
Often,  just  as  you  have  finally  gotten  someone  into  a  mad 
hat  by  giving  it  to  her  and  are  all  set  to  sell  her  some  silly 
clothes  the  next  time  and  make  her  find  out  that  life  is  gay, 
she  happens  into  another  dressmaker  and  is  gone  like  the 

I  suppose  I  evolved  a  lot  of  these  ideas  in  Paris  where 
time  is  not  money  and  the  French  fabric  people  allow  the 
couturiers  to  go  right  on  making  beautiful  clothes  as  long 
as  they  are  able  to  publicize  fabrics. 

I  thank  God  for  the  generosity  of  the  Hardens  in  letting 
me  get  my  start  with  all  my  theories  in  New  York.  They 
treated  me  to  a  year  and  quarter  of  dreams  which  I  haven't 
forgotten.  They  gave  me  a  chance  to  lay  a  base  and  prove 


that  a  certain  number  of  women  wanted  Hawes  clothes  sold 
to  them  according  to  my  definitions  of  selling. 

In  the  early  spring  of  1930,  I  was  rudely  awakened  to 
reality.  Rosemary  Harden  decided  tHat  life  held  other  things 
besides  selling  clothes  and  she  was  quite  right.  Perhaps  she 
also  had  a  vision  into  the  future  of  trying  to  run  an  expensive 
clothing  store  through  the  depression.  At  any  rate,  she  re- 
tired to  be  married  and  raise  a  family. 

I  suddenly  realized  that  the  stock  market  had  collapsed 
in  the  fall  of  1929  and  that  now  in  1930  I  was  in  the  red  on 
the  books.  Perhaps  if  I  hadn't  had  a  fanatical  desire  to  de- 
sign clothes,  I  would  have  retired  myself. 

As  it  was,  all  I  thought  was  that  I'd  gotten  started  and 
wasn't  going  to  stop  without  a  struggle.  The  ensuing  struggle 
Was  primarily  centered,  for  four  long  years,  on  cash. 

The  Hardens  sold  me  Rosemary's  half  of  the  business 
for  a  dollar.  For  two  months  I  couldn't  find  a  dollar  any- 
where. I  thought  I  had  covered  the  possibilities  and  con- 
cluded I  was  washed-up.  In  walked  a  friend,  the  first  I  saw 
after  the  awful  realization  came  over  me.  I  tried  the  new 
idea  out  on  her.  I  wanted  to  say  it  aloud  so  it  would  become 

"I  have  to  close  up,"  I  announced.  I  must  have  sounded 
and  looked  as  I  felt,  horrible. 

"How  much  do  you  need?"  she  said. 

"I  wouldn't  dare  go  on  unless  I  knew  where  I  could  find 
$10,000,"  I  answered.  I  was  still  doing  business  with  myth- 
ical calculations. 

The  next  day  she  called  up  and  offered  to  underwrite 
me  for  what  I  wanted.  I  was  so  inspired,  I  sold  five  thousand 
dollars'  worth  of  stock  to  someone  else  and  that  saw  me 
through  the  next  two  years. 

Now,  said  I  to  me,  I'd  better  really  get  serious. 


'    "Qjneo    i^suarrea  f 



NINETEEN  hundred  thirty  was  a  good  year  for  me.  I 
never  get  any  more  serious  about  business  than  I  have 
to  to  keep  it  going.  That  was  enough  to  break  me  down  once 
or  twice  a  year  regularly  from  '31  to  '36. 

As  I  look  back  on  France,  the  most  important  thing  I 


learned  there  was  to  be  in  business  for  my  health,  at  least 
theoretically.  Beginning  in  1930,  I've  had  one  if  not  two 
months'  vacation  every  summer,  and  three  or  four  weeks  off 
in  the  winter.  I  have  no  diamond  bracelets,  and  if  I  did,  I'm 
sure  my  health  would  be  no  better. 

My  first  serious  step,  after  Rosemary  Harden  left  me 
and  I  found  my  $5,000,  was  to  reorganize  as  Hawes  Inc. 
I  then  spent  a  hundred  dollars  making  the  shop  look  like 

Willy  Muschenheim,  a  modern  architect  steeped  in  Vien- 
nese lore,  taught  me  about  painting  four  walls  in  three  or 
four  colors.  We  had  two  shades  of  gray,  white,  and  canary 
yellow.  The  ceiling  was  too  low  and  Willy  blotted  it  out  with 
dark  blue  paint. 

Once  a  lady  from  Harper s  Bazaar  came  into  the  shop 
and  admired  a  wire  fish  bowl  which  Sandy  Calder  had  given 
me.  "It's  no  wonder  you  get  on  so  well,"  said  she,  "you  have 
so  many  clever  friends." 

Quite  right.  Bob  Josephy  made  me  some  aluminum 
tables  with  glass  tops.  We  all  went  to  Second  Avenue  and 
bought  second-hand  couches  which  we  covered  with  blue 
like  the  ceiling.  The  chairs  were  wire  soda-fountain  models 
with  blue  cushions.  Everything  became  bright  and  gay  and 

I  was  off  again.  I  electrified  my  creditors  by  writing 
them  all  notes  to  say  the  Hardens  had  left  and  that  I  would 
continue  and  they  would  all  be  paid  some  day.  I  thereupon 
discovered  that  the  less  you  tell  creditors  about  paying  them, 
the  better  they  like  it.  They  prefer,  in  their  hearts,  to  quietly 
trust  in  God  where  dressmakers  are  concerned.  It  would  have 
been  quite  smart  of  me  to  have  gone  into  bankruptcy  and 
started  clean.  But  I  wasn't  brought  up  to  do  that,  or  maybe 
it's  just  that  money  doesn't  mean  much  to  me. 


My  puritanical  policies  stood  me  in  good  stead  later  on, 
as  the  depression  got  worse.  My  creditors  saw  me  through 
it  at  times  when  my  best  friends  were  entirely  too  broke. 

If  my  creditors  had  been  paying  more  attention  to  me 
in  1930,  they  might  have  been  more  cautious.  It  seemed  to 
me  that  I  had  about  exhausted  the  channels  leading  to  cus- 
tomers via  friends.  I  wanted  to  tell  everyone  about  Hawes 
clothes.  I  positively  didn't  have  enough  money  to  advertise, 
but  I  did. 

All  the  ads  went  into  the  New  Yorker  and  they  were  fun. 
Regal  and  Leffingwell,  the  small  agency  I  found  to  work 
through,  told  me,  when  I  said  I  had  written  for  the  New 
Yorker,  that  I  should  write  my  own  ads. 

I  was  terrified — like  trying  out  for  a  new  job.  It  worked 
beautifully,  probably  because  all  the  ads  went  into  the 
widely  read  New  Yorker.  The  copy  carried  the  Hawes  flavor 
well  enough  so  that  practically  nobody  came  in  from  an 
ad  who  didn't  buy  if  they  had  the  price. 

The  spring  slid  by.  I  went  to  Europe  and  bicycled  in  the 
Romanesque  heart  of  France  for  a  month  in  July.  I  made 
my  collection  and  advertised  it  in  the  fall.  At  the  end  of 
1930,  I  had  done  $40,000  worth  of  business  and  broken 
even,  paying  myself  and  my  fitter  a  hundred  dollars  a  week 
salary,  average  wages  to  the  rest  of  the  staff  and  workroom. 

This  taught  me  a  very  important  lesson.  It  wasn't  nec- 
essarily a  question  of  constantly  doing  more  and  more  vol- 
ume. I  had  paid  myself  $50  a  week,  done  no  advertising,  and 
lost  ten  thousand  on  sixty  thousand  dollars'  gross  business 
the  first  year. 

The  second  year,  I  spent  about  $5,000  on  ads,  doubled 
my  salary,  had  a  more  expensive  fitter,  and  lost  no  money. 
We  became  efficient. 

The  loss  in  sales  was  directly  ascribable  to  the  fact  that 


many  of  my  first  customers  lost  everything  in  the  1929  crash. 
The  fact  that  I  got  by  at  all,  I  think,  was  largely  due  to  pick- 
ing up  a  fair  number  of  new  customers  by  advertising,  and 
hiring  a  fitter  who  understood  my  ideas  to  run  the  workroom. 

So  I  began  1931  well  enough,  but  I  still  hadn't  made 
much  of  a  dent  in  the  clothing  world.  People  still  said,  "Of 
course  you  go  to  Paris  every  season  for  the  openings,"  and 
infuriated  me.  I  went  into  long  endless  explanations  of  how 
it  wasn't  necessary  to  see  French  clothes  to  design  what 
American  women  wanted  to  wear.  Everyone  smiled  know- 
ingly and  seemed  to  insinuate  that  I  probably  had  my  private 
sources  of  French  designs. 

At  this  moment  the  gods  delivered  into  my  hands  what 
looked  to  me  like  the  means  of  shouting  very  loud  and  clear, 
"Clothes  are  designed  in  America.  All  beautiful  clothes 
are  not  designed  in  France.  All  women  do  not  want  French 

My  motives  were  not  in  any  sense  to  undermine  the 
French.  I  loved  them  and  their  country  and  their  food  and 
their  clothes.  I  wanted  recognition  in  the  United  States  for 
myself  and  for  all  designers.  I  wanted  people  to  say,  "The 
French  design  beautiful  clothes  and  so  do  the  English  and 
the  Americans  and  lots  of  other  people." 

Along  came  a  girl  named  Mary  Bendelarie  who  was 
American  and  had  gotten  fame  by  designing  and  making 
shoes  in  Paris.  She  seems  to  have  passed  out  of  the  picture 
but  in  those  days  she  had  an  enormous  amount  of  press.  Un- 
fortunately, as  I  often  observed  to  myself  while  looking  over 
my  own  clippings,  one  can't  eat  them.  I  think  that  Bendelarie 
was  a  better  press  agent  that  she  was  manager.  People  liked 
and  wore  her  shoes,  so  she  must  have  been  a  good  designer. 

She  came  to  buy  clothes.  She  remained  to  invite  me  to 
show  my  clothes  when  she  gave  her  annual  shoe  show  in 


Paris.  I  was  planning  to  go  abroad  anyway  in  June.  It  seemed 
like  an  amusing  idea  and  a  most  excellent  way  of  putting 
over  my  point  that  there  were  dress  designers  in  New  York. 

I  am  largely  indebted  to  Eleanor  Shaler  for  the  Paris 
showing  having  come  off.  Shaler  is  a  Hawes  stockholder. 
She  is  an  amazing  girl  who  went  to  Vassar,  danced  in  the 
Garrick  Gaieties,  sang  in  nightclubs,  wrote  a  book,  and, 
somewhere  in  among  all  that,  worked  in  Will  Hays'  office. 
She  acquired  a  remarkably  good  sense  of  press  agenting  in 
the  course  of  her  career.  She  taught  me  most  of  what  I  now 
understand  about  press  agenting  in  America. 

Shaler  said,  "It's  a  wonderful  idea.  You  must  do  it.  And, 
I  think,  the  time  has  come  for  you  to  have  a  press  agent." 

I  didn't  know  much  what  that  meant,  but  one  Selma 
Robinson  had  been  sitting  in  the  shop  by  the  hour  for  weeks, 
looking  longingly  at  Hawes  clothes.  She  was  a  press  agent, 
as  I  look  back  on  her,  one  of  the  best  I've  ever  met.  She  was 
pretty  and  black-haired  and  energetic. 

I  hired  her  for  a  sum  I  could  afford  because  she  wanted 
Hawes  clothes.  Most  of  my  early  employees  and  stockholders 
elected  themselves  to  Hawes  Inc.  Young  women  would  just 
come  in  and  sit  until  I  finally  said,  "Why  don't  you  sell,"  or 
design,  or  buy  stock,  or  be  my  press  agent,  as  the  case 
might  be. 

Selma  was,  of  course,  delighted  with  the  Paris  idea.  She 
put  out  a  few  stories,  had  me  interviewed  once  or  twice,  say- 
ing that  I  was  going.  Just  then  Bendelarie  whipped  away 
into  the  night  and  was  gone.  I  think  I  got  the  idea  that  she 
wanted  me  to  pay  for  the  whole  show.  That  had  not  been  my 
first  understanding.  I  was  enraged.  She  left. 

I  had  publicly  committed  myself  to  showing  clothes  in 
Paris  and  Shaler  and  I  felt  that  I  must  do  it  or  make  a  liar 
of  myself.  There  is  nothing  so  undermining  in  the  long  run 


as  those  press  stories  which  constantly  make  the  rounds  and 
then  turn  out  to  have  been  sheer  imagination. 

One  afternoon  Shaler  brought  Ruth  Morris  into  the  shop. 
Ruth  is  the  sister  of  Bill  Morris  who  heads  up  one  of  the 
largest  theatrical  agencies  in  the  country.  This  means  that 
he  places  and  makes  contracts  for  numerous  stars  of  the 
stage  and  films  and  radio  and  is  in  touch  with  theatrical 
and  nightclub  people  all  over  the  world. 

Ruth  and  Shaler  and  I  draped  ourselves  over  the  largest 
couch  and  discussed  my  predicament.  How  was  I  to  show 
clothes  in  Paris? 

"Bill  knows  the  man  who  owns  Les  Ambassadeurs  in 
Paris,"  Ruth  remarked.  "Maybe  he  could  arrange  some- 

So  Bill,  who  scarcely  knew  me,  sent  a  cable  and  arranged 
something,  none  of  us  knew  just  what.  I  was  to  present  my- 
self in  Paris  to  the  manager  of  Les  Ambassadeurs  and  finish 
the  arranging. 

I  got  together  a  few  clothes,  took  a  boat,  and  turned  up 
in  Paris  about  the  middle  of  June.  Les  Ambassadeurs,  was, 
and  probably  still  is,  a  very  good  and  expensive  tea  place 
and  nightclub  situated  in  that  strip  of  park  which  runs  up 
between  the  Champs  Elysees  and  the  Avenue  Gabriel,  just 
above  the  Place  de  la  Concorde  in  Paris. 

I  repaired  to  the  office  of  the  manager,  on  the  Champs 
Elysees.  I  went  into  the  usual  dark  entrance  hall  and  found 
one  of  those  glass  elevators  which  glide  slowly,  oh  so  very 
slowly,  up  slippery  poles  to  Parisian  offices.  "Home  again," 
I  reflected.  "Why  did  we  ever  think  I  could  do  anything  here 
in  a  hurry?" 

I  reckoned  without  the  power  of  Bill  Morris.  He'd  fixed 
everything  as  much  as  he  could  have.  The  owner  was  British 
(keep  that  in  mind)  and  in  London,  and  he'd  evidently  told 


the  manager  to  go  ahead  and  put  on  my  clothes  as  part  of 
the  floor  show  some  afternoon  and  evening. 

The  manager  was  French.  He  was  large  and  fat  and  slow 
but  he'd  had  his  orders  and  I  doubt  if  he  thought  much  about 
it  all,  other  than  to  recommend  to  me  that  we  put  on  the  show 
July  Fourth.  It  seemed  entirely  appropriate. 

He  introduced  me  to  Eddie  Lewis,  a  small  dark  Amer- 
ican youth  who  ran  the  floor  shows  for  Les  Ambassadeurs 
that  summer.  Poor  Eddie!  Little  did  he  know  what  he  was 
getting  in  for  as  we  quickly  agreed  that  I  should  get  programs 
of  the  clothes  printed,  that  we  would  show  the  clothes  the 
afternoon  of  the  Fourth  at  tea,  although  they  didn't  usually 
have  any  show  then,  and  again  during  dinner  at  night. 

I  had  a  little  over  two  weeks  before  the  Fourth.  I  decided 
to  plant  a  few  seeds  in  the  press  and  leave  for  Geneva  to 
rest  and  visit  and  get  up  my  strength  for  the  show. 

I  had  letters  with  me  to  a  lot  of  press  people  in  Paris 
and  knew  others.  I  decided  one  story  in  the  Paris  Herald 
would  hold  me  until  the  week  before  the  show. 

I  therefore  went  to  present  my  letter  to  the  editor  of 
the  Herald,  and,  just  in  case  I  needed  it,  took  along  another 
to  some  friend  of  a  friend  in  the  advertising  department. 

The  editor  received  me.  "I  am  going  to  show  American 
designed  clothes  at  Les  Ambassadeurs  on  July  Fourth,"  I 
said,  and  waited  for  him  to  jump. 

He  was  a  large  gentleman  with  watery  blue  eyes.  He 
turned  them  slowly  to  me.  "What  do  you  expect  us  to  do 
about  that?"  he  asked  me  in  a  steely  voice. 

I  gathered  my  surprise  together.  "In  America,  before  I 
left,  people  thought  it  was  news,"  I  said  very  clearly. 

He  didn't  say,  "We  are  not  in  business  to  give  out  news." 
He  did  say  with  great  finality,  "We  run  a  paper  in  Paris.  We 


would  not  care  to  do  anything  to  which  the  French  couture 
might  object." 

"Oh,"  I  observed,  and  retired  hastily  to  present  my  let- 
ter to  the  advertising  gentleman.  It  is  always  the  letters  you 
almost  don't  take  along  which  arrange  everything  in  the  end. 

I  burst  in  upon  a  small  youngish  American,  one  who 
had  lived  for  years  on  the  Herald  in  Paris  and  didn't  take 
life  or  work  too  seriously. 

"Of  course,  I  know  the  entire  French  press  is  bought,"  I 
explained,  "but  what  the  hell  is  going  on  here?" 

"Don't  you  have  to  do  any  advertising?"  he  asked,  after 
he  had  taken  me  to  the  corner  bar  and  supplied  my  troubles 
with  a  drink. 

"Well,  I  could  put  in  an  ad  for  models.  How  much  will 
that  cost?"  I've  forgotten  what  it  cost.  Maybe  $15  for  quite 
a  large  one. 

"And  now,"  he  said  kindly,  "you  go  home  and  write 
your  story  and  I  will  see  that  it  gets  in.  Send  in  the  ad  along 
with  it.  But  for  heaven's  sake,  get  an  angle  they'll  print." 

I  went  home  and  wrote  out  an  ad  for  American  girls  to 
show  clothes,  July  Fourth.  Apply  Hotel  Plaza  Athenee,  June 
30.  Then  I  wrote  up  my  story.  I'm  rather  proud  of  my  angle, 
so  I'll  print  it  below,  just  as  it  appeared,  slightly  cut  to  be 
sure,  in  the  Paris  Herald  the  week  before  the  show. 


With  a  view  of  showing  French  Miss  Hawes,  who  has  had  thorough 

dressmakers  what  American  women  experience   in   designing  clothes   in 

want  in  the  way  of  clothes,  Miss  Eliza-  Paris,  now  has  her  own  firm  in  New 

beth  Hawes,  New  York  dressmaker,  York  under  the  name  of  Hawes  and 

will  show  a  number  of  American  de-  Company,   Inc.   The    dresses   which 

signed  dresses  at  the  Ambassadeurs  Miss  Hawes  will  show  at  teatime  and 

on  Saturday.  later  during  the  dinner  are  not  for 


sale  in  France,  and  she  has  no  idea 
of  going  into  competition  with  the 
French  couturiers. 

"I  was  invited  to  show  a  few  of  my 
dresses,"  said  Miss  Hawes,  "and  I 
thought  it  was  an  amusing  idea  at 
first.  On  second  thought,  I  realized 
that  the  French  dressmakers,  who  are 
always  so  anxious  to  know  just  how 
American  women  do  dress  in  the 
United  States,  would  be  really  inter- 
ested in  seeing  some  American  de- 
signs. There  is  no  doubt  but  that  the 
French  have  more  idea  of  real  'chic* 
than  any  other  country  in  the  world. 

"In  America,  the  women  wear 
mostly  adaptations  of  French  styles," 
she  continued,  "not  real  French 
styles.  It  is  difficult  for  a  French  de- 
signer to  understand  the  sort  of  life 
we  American  women  lead.  American 
women  demand  a  certain  kind  of  aft- 
ernoon dress,  and  dresses  which  they 
wear  at  home  in  the  evening,  which 

never  are  used  in  Paris.  The  differ- 
ence between  French  and  American 
style  is  not  very  great,  but  just 
enough  to  make  many  French  de- 
signs useless  for  the  United  States.  I 
do  hope  that  any  one  in  Paris  who  is 
interested  in  designing  for  American 
women  will  come  and  see  the  few 
models  which  I  am  showing.  The  col- 
lection includes  everything  from 
'breakfast  in  bed*  to  supper  in  that 
most  American  place,  a  speakeasy. 

"The  French  have  a  great  tradition 
of  many  years  behind  their  couture 
and  as  they  come  to  understand  more 
thoroughly  the  American  scene,  in 
its  ever-changing  phases,  they  will 
make  clothes  which  are  created  to  be 
worn  in  the  United  States." 

Miss  Hawes  was  formerly  a  de- 
signer for  Nicole  Groult,  in  Paris. 
Her  New  York  firm  is  at  8  West  56th 

I  placed  an  order  for  red-white-and-blue  programs  of 
Hawes  clothes  and  went  to  Geneva.  There  I  spent  a  week 
forgetting  clothes  under  the  aegis  of  the  League  of  Nations. 
I  returned  to  put  on  my  show.  I  carried  with  me  some  letters 
from  newspaper  men  in  Geneva  who  thought  it  was  all  very 
funny,  just  as  I  did  while  I  was  in  Geneva.  They  were  ap- 
prising their  colleagues  in  Paris  that  here  was  a  news  story. 

The  week  preceding  my  showing  aux  Ambassadeurs  will 
always  stand  out  in  my  mind  as  one  of  the  most  harassing  of 
my  life.  I  wrote  a  letter  to  Hawes  Inc.  the  days  before  and 
after  the  show  which  more  or  less  tells  all  in  just  the  garbled 
form  in  which  it  happened.  The  letter  was  preserved  in  the 
archives  and  I  reprint  it  with  parenthetical  inserts: 




JULY  3,  (1931) 

Dear  and  priceless  partners  ...  I  shall  begin  the  story  of 
my  life  now  .  .  .  and  after  it  is  over,  you  may  read  about  it 
in  the  papers.  I  doubt  if  I  shall  be  alive  to  tell  the  tale. 

Before  I  left  for  Geneva,  everything  got  set  in  one  day,  as 
I  think  I  told  you.  Willy  Morris  must  just  own  the  place  .  .  . 
that's  what  I  thought.  Ha  ...  it  is  not  true  at  all! 

But  if  an  artistic  director  called  Eddie  Lewis  ever  crosses 
your  paths,  remember,  we  owe  it  all  to  him.  And  call  up  Willy 
and  tell  him  to  raise  his  salary  right  away.  Not  because  his  ideas 
are  so  hot  .  .  .  but  because  I  begin  to  think  I  owe  it  to  him 
for  keeping  the  ship  on  the  rails.  I  may  be  speaking  a  bit  too 
soon.  This  show  may  never  come  off  tomorrow.  I'm  glad  I  have 
two  ads  to  prove  I  meant  to  do  it. 

Things  have  gone  like  this  since  Monday  last  (the  day  I  got 
back  to  Paris  from  Geneva)  : 

Went  to  the  editor  of  the  Paris  Herald  with  a  letter  from  an 
important  person  in  Geneva.  Editor  was  very  snotty.  I  forgot 
to  say  that  I  had  already  seen  Harold  Smith  and  had  begun  to 
gather  about  my  naivete.  The  Paris  press,  including  the  Amer- 
ican division,  is  to  be  bought. 

Well  ...  so  I  went  with  my  letter  from  pal  Vischer  of  Polo 
to  the  head  of  the  advertising  dept.  who  immediately  took  me 
to  drink  and  lunch  .  .  .  and  I  had  to  put  an  ad  for  models 
anyway  ...  so  he  said  to  write  what  I  wanted  said  and  he'd 
see.  The  enclosed  is  the  result  of  that. 

(The  enclosed  was  the  clipping  from  the  Paris  Herald.) 

Only  my  having  gathered  how  bad  things  were  saved  us  from 
not  getting  the  show  on  at  all.  I  think  that  you  will  agree  that 
while  my  telephone  conversation  may  be  bad,  I  might  get 
diplomatic  one  of  these  days. 

Well ...  so  I  began  to  get  models,  each  worse  than  the  last. 

God  ...  if  I  could  have  hired  a  plane,  I'd  have  had  you 
all  over  here.  But  anyway,  I  have  eight  who  are  fairly  present- 


able  .  .  .  two  divine  ...  or  maybe  three.  It  took  nights  and 
days  to  find  them.  I  want  sympathy. 

In  the  meantime  (the  week  before  the  show) ,  I  distributed 
my  letters  and  saw  people,  endlessly.  The  A.P.  has  its  story  al- 
ready, with  pictures.  The  New  York  Herald  is  coming  .  .  . 
not  going  away  over  the  Fourth,  as  so  many  are !  .  .  .  and  they 
have  two  other  pictures.  The  next  time  we  do  this,  I'll  know 
more.  I  should  have  had  a  flock  of  them  (pictures) .  I  am  send- 
ing some  rough  sketches  to  the  Herald,  also.  Luckily  they 
wanted  them  rough.  (This  refers  to  the  fact  that  I  have  never 
been  a  good  sketcher.) 

I  want  this  idea  put  across  well  .  .  .  that  the  absence  of  ad- 
vance publicity  is  due  to  two  things  .  .  . 

1.  I  didn't  want  to  spend  more  than  a  million  dollars. 

2.  Les  Ambassadeurs  wouldn't  have  put  on  the  show  at  all. 
The  boss  who  said  it  could  be  done  went  away.  Perhaps  it's 

just  as  well.  By  this  time  it  would  be  called  off  if  he  could  hear 
the  mutters  .  .  .  but  no  one  has  the  authority  to  call  it  off!  So, 
they  (the  underlings  who  ran  the  nightclub)  are  shaking  in 
their  shoes  at  every  breath  they  hear  for  fear  the  Paris  cou- 
turiers will  send  them  to  hell  for  this.  They  pulled  a  nice  one 
today  and  said  we  couldn't  have  any  dressing  rooms.  Eddie 
and  I  will  fix  that,  though.  And  the  girls  I  have  are  really 
sweet.  They've  rallied  around  and  helped  and  I  really  think 
they'd  dress  in  the  street  if  necessary.  We  did  think  of  taxis  .  .  . 
but  an  open  corridor  seems  better.  God. 

Well,  now  you  see  why  I  squashed  the  letters  from  Geneva, 
such  nice  letters  .  .  .  about  making  a  row  and  getting  fa- 
mous .  .  .  I'd  of  been  famous  but  dead. 

Maybe  I  can  give  a  story  to  the  press  when  I  get  home.  You'd 
better  start  asking  the  ambassador  about  it.  Maybe  the  French 
will  never  settle  the  debt  now.  Anyway,  my  bills  will  help  a 

Poor  Bud  .  .  .  (Bud,  Mary  Robinson,  was  my  chief  assist- 
ant and  a  stockholder)  ...  I  know  how  mad  you  were  when 
you  got  a  cable  for  all  those  dollars,  but  a  girl  can't  start  any- 
thing she  doesn't  finish  .  .  .  and  Shaler  can  get  to  be  a  bigger 
stockholder,  maybe! 


I'm  full  of  very  bright  ideas.  Paris  has  gone  completely 
French  and  if  anyone  thinks  it's  chic  here,  they're  out  of  their 
heads.  I  know  it  isn't  the  season  (for  chic  people  to  he  in  Paris) 
.  .  .  but  even  so.  I  made  an  amusing  discovery  while  looking 
through  the  social  register  that  all  the  chic  French  countesses 
are  American.  Those  who  aren't  had  American  mothers.  Tell 
that  to  Selma.  (Selma  Robinson,  the  press  agent.)  .  .  .  and 
tell  her  I  see  the  future  of  fashion  writing  and  if  she  can  line 
up  a  couple  or  one  smart  girl,  I'll  help  her  be  a  big  success. 
If  we  work  a  little,  we  can  slit  Paris  right  up  the  back  in  a  few 
years.  And  that  will  be  swell  because  then  I'll  never  have  to 
show  clothes  here  again. 

What  else?  I  haven't  slept  this  week,  and  I  have  three  new 
hats  from  Agnes,  each  madder  than  the  last.  Madame  Groult 
will  come,  of  course.  I  have  May  Wilson  Preston  and  Pierre 
de  Lanoux  who  is  the  French  League  of  Nations  representative 
for  the  press  .  .  .  and  Groult ...  at  my  table.  I  must  explain 
that  I  sent  the  most  polite  letters  to  all  the  couturiers  whom  I 
like!  And  none  of  them  will  come,  of  course.  But  I  am  so 
amused  at  their  notes.  Schiaparelli  really  would  come  ...  I 
know  her  .  .  .  but  she's  going  away  for  the  weekend.  Patou's 
publicity  man  was  polite,  called  me  twice  before  he  got  in  touch 
with  Patou  .  .  .  and  never  has  spoken  since !  Madeleine  Vion- 
net  sends  me  the  very  best  wishes  for  success  and  regrets  that 
she  is  making  models  and  can't  come  ...  of  course.  But  hers 
was  the  nicest  note.  Some  of  them  didn't  answer  at  all.  Worth 
said  he'd  come  but  I  suppose  he  won't.  Main  Bocher  who  got 
me  my  first  designing  job  regrets  shortly.  They're  really  busy 
as  hell.  (It  was  just  before  the  summer  openings.)  I  wish  I 
thought  they  were  scared. 

I  think  I  must  have  asked  100  people  for  tea  (personal  invi- 
tations) ,  so  I  guess  I'll  have  fifty . . .  and  I  shall  just  go  through 
them  in  a  daze,  I  suppose.  When  I  think  that  I  have  actually 
gotten  nervous  in  New  York!  This  is  a  great  training  ground. 
When  you  said,  may  God  attend  (that's  what  the  firm  cabled 
me  the  day  before  the  show)  you  didn't  half  know  how  much 
I  needed  him  on  my  side. 

I'm  rattling  around  in  the  largest  apartment  in  the  Hotel 


Plaza  .  .  .  for  the  minimum  price  of  smallest  room.  I  have 
two  bedrooms,  two  baths,  but  only  one  salon.  I  shall  doubtless 
have  to  pawn  all  the  clothes  to  get  out.  I  may  be  home  almost 
as  soon  as  this  is !  But  what  has  cost  the  most  about  the  show  are 
the  models,  mostly  .  .  .  tea  will  be  more  than  I  can  imagine, 
ads  and  printing  .  .  .  and  tips,  dearie,  tips.  I  sometimes  think 
it  must  be  cheaper  to  live  in  New  York,  after  all.  All  prices  are 
marked  in  plain  figures. 

I  gather  Bendelarie  hasn't  come  over  yet.  I  guess  she  might 
be  pretty  mad  if  I  get  enough  publicity  out  of  this.  Listen,  I 
have  to  come  home  in  the  third  class,  although  it  did  make  me 
sick  coming  over  .  .  .  so  if  you  think  it's  a  very  bad  idea,  cable 
me  and  I'll  accept  a  gift  from  the  firm.  (I  was  paying  my  own 
traveling  expenses  out  of  my  salary.) 

I  encourage  myself  by  thinking  about  the  cost  of  one  ad  in 
the  New  Yorker!  I  think  it  would  only  cost  about  $125  for 
first  class  .  .  .  and  if  I  hadn't  had  to  stay  at  the  damn  fancy 
hotel  .  .  .  but,  no.  Only  the  chasseurs  (bellboys)  have  kept 
me  alive.  They  wish  I'd  always  live  here.  (I  had  to  tip  them 
so  often.)  The  management  finds  me  a  little  commercial  .  .  . 
since  they  are  getting  gypped. 

About  when  I  land  ...  I  suppose  I  can  face  anything,  so 
I'd  better  go  through  with  getting  stuck  in  the  customs.  (The 
press  agent  had  figured  out  I  could  get  stuck  in  the  customs 
with  the  clothes,  the  officials  thinking  they  were  French.  This 
idea  was  thrown  out  although  it  would  have  led  to  plenty  of 
press,  me  proving  my  clothes  were  made  in  America.) 

If  you  think  it  isn't  worthwhile,  be  sure  to  let  me  know  .  .  . 
and  my  father.  He  has  a  guy  who  can  get  me  through,  you 
know.  And  maybe  Johnny  McClain  (Ship's  news  reporter)  will 
give  me  a  break  in  the  press  when  I  land.  But  if  he  is  going 
to,  let  me  know  about  whether  I  should  just  slip  into  the  first 
class  to  meet  him  and  give  him  a  rendezvous  in  the  bar  or  some- 
thing. Just  figure  out  what  I'm  to  do  when  I  land  .  .  .  and 
cable  or  write  as  the  time  is.  I'll  let  you  know  when  I'm  sailing. 

I'm  so  sick  of  my  favorite  Paris  at  this  point,  I  never  want 
to  see  it  again  .  .  . 

Oh,  about  the  movies.  Richard  de  Rochemont  is  a  lamb.  (De 


Rochemont  was  Shaler's  cousin,  head,  I  think,  of  the  Fox  news- 
reel  in  Paris.  I  had  a  letter  for  him,  needless  to  state.)  But  they 
really  want  them  so  he  didn't  have  to  pull  anything.  It  rained 
today  so  we  couldn't  take  them,  but  we  do  it  next  Tuesday  at 
ten  A.M.  for  France  and  America.  We'll  have  to  get  right  to 
work  not  to  have  them  cut  the  film  when  it  lands.  I'll  speak  to 
De  Rochemont  about  whom  to  see.  The  French  man  (in  the 
Fox  newsreel)  is  a  riot.  He  thinks  mannequins  are  only  good 
when  they  are  fancy.  I'll  probably  have  to  get  a  whole  new 
set  for  them.  One  damn  thing  after  another.  I  ...  oh  well. 
My  luck  is  phenomenal  .  .  .  and  we  may  make  a  million  dol- 
lars yet  if  you'll  only  turn  into  sharp  business  women. 

For  God's  sake  don't  ever  let  anyone  plan  any  publicity  stunt 
again  which  has  to  be  managed  solo. 

I  will  finish  this  letter  in  my  right  mind,  for  better  or  for 
worse  .  .  .  day  after  tomorrow. 

July  Sixth 

First  off  .  .  .  they  turned  away  dozens  of  people  in  the  aft- 
ernoon. There  wasn't  enough  food  to  go  around  for  tea.  The 
place  was  absolutely  packed. 

The  audience  was  a  great  melange  of  social  and  press  and 
curious  Americans.  My  models  were  simply  swell.  Everything 
went  perfectly.  There  wasn't  a  hitch.  They  called  for  me  at  the 
end.  I  looked  fine. 

The  girls  (models)  simply  went  right  through  all  the  fuss 
about  dressing  rooms  and  what  not  as  if  the  reputation  of  our 
great  country  depended  on  it.  I  enclose  the  one  French  write-up 
I  was  able  to  get  by  drag. 

(Pierre  de  Lanoux  brought  Jean  Prevost.  I  put  a  translation  of 
his  piece  below.  The  reason  my  name  is  not  mentioned  is  because 
he  could  not  do  that  without  the  paper  being  paid.) 


UAmbassade  De  La  Grace 



Yesterday,  in  Paris,  an  American 
couturiere  presented  her  collection 
for  the  next  season.  Although  the 
idea  seems  daring,  no  impudence  nor 
even  assurance  underlined  its  audac- 
ity. The  young  couturiere  herself  was 
trembling,  and  the  numbers  shook  in 
the  hands  of  the  mannequins. 

If  the  styles  are  a  good  deal  in- 
spired by  Europe,  and  more  than  one 
costume  bears  a  French  name,  the 
collection  has,  nevertheless,  a  distinct 
personality.  There  is  something  in 
these  creations  which  is  almost  too 
intelligent,  too  wilful.  Every  inten- 
tion is  easily  perceptible. 

No  bad  taste,  however!  If  the  trans- 
parent negligee  for  breakfast  in  bed 
reminds  one  a  little  of  the  chaste 
provocations  of  American  movies,  a 
velours  motoring  coat  with  very  sim- 
ple lapels  has  nothing  more  extreme 
about  it  than  a  very  beautiful  cut, 
and  gives,  one  scarcely  knows  why, 
the  impression  of  a  fifteenth  century 
costume.  The  chief  interest  of  "Ma- 
dame Shops"  lies  in  a  double-breasted 
collar  of  fur,  like  a  fencing  pad,  on 
the  front  of  the  coat,  which  by  its 
lively  and  almost  savage  charm  em- 
phasizes the  complete  correctness  of 
the  whole  ensemble. 

The  Sunday-night  dress,  one  of  the 
most  striking,  owes  all  its  charm  to 
the  parallel  stripes  which,  since  the 
dress  is  very  tightly  fitted,  accentu- 
ate the  outline  of  the  hips  as  do  the 
long  shaded  strokes  in  beautiful  Ital- 
ian drawings. 

Most  of  the  thought  and  the  few 
eccentricities  used  by  this  young 

American  couturiere  have  been  ap- 
plied to  the  backs.  Thus,  for  "din- 
ner, no  theatre,"  an  open  tuxedo 
waistcoat  effect,  faced  in  shrimp  color, 
has  been  used  for  the  design  of  the 
lowcut  back. 

Another  dress  entitled  "Debu- 
tante," (in  anglicized  French  and  al- 
luding to  the  London  Court),  has  a 
sort  of  odd  little  vest  encircling  the 
waist  and  buttoning  in  the  back,  re- 
minding us  of  the  famous  waistcoat 
of  the  Saint-Simonian  period  which 
likewise  was  buttoned  from  behind 
to  symbolize  the  fraternal  assistance 
due  to  one  man  from  another. 

Considering  their  titles,  I  expect 
wonders  from  the  last  numbers  which 
are:  the  "Par  dela  le  bien  et  le  mal" 
(Beyond  Good  and  Evil)  and  "Speak- 
easy" (Clandestine  cabaret).  The 
dress,  "Coq  de  roche"  (coxcomb)  in 
color,  is  semi-tailored  in  front  with 
wide,  heavy  draping  in  the  back  to 
suggest  the  wings  of  the  accursed 

There  is  the  America  of  next  Fall, 
but  the  America  of  yesterday  and 
today  still  dances  about  us.  An  Amer- 
ican in  belted  jacket,  resembling  the 
renowned  Mr.  Taft,  dances  with  a 
stout  befeathered  lady  in  the  mode  of 
1900.  A  Negro  tosses  himself  about 
with  his  two  clattering  rattles  to  in- 
cite the  rhythm  of  a  Cuban  dance. 
Magnificent  Argentine  singers  intone 
with  triumphant  voice :  "Morir  quisaz 
de  desesperanza"  (To  die  perhaps  of 
despair) . 

Here,  in  the  dance  as  in  Fashion, 
the  American  style  is  all  antithesis. 


(Back  to  my  letter) : 

...  I  had  several  offers  (from  French  papers)  at  1,000 
francs  per  write-up,  which  I  declined.  Here  is  a  list  of  the  press 
whom  I  know  were  there:  Tell  Selma  if  she  gets  English  (Brit- 
ish) clippings  to  put  in  an  order: 

Ruby  Baxter  .  .  .  Daily  Telegraph 

Christine  Diemer  .  .  .  Variety  .  .  .  gets  a  special  story  this 


Mr.  Dalmau  .  .  .  Havana  paper 
Elene  Foster  .  .  .  Spur,  Christian  Science  Monitor 
Rosette  Hargrave  .  .  .  N.E.A.  took  a  lot  of  pictures  including 

one  of  me,  have  Selma  check  up  with  Blanchard  when  they 

come  through  and  try  to  get  a  set. 

Adelaide  Kerr  .  .  .  A.P.  .  .  .  has  a  long  story  and  pictures. 
Bee  Mathieu  .  .  .  New  Yorker 
Constance  Miller  .  .  .  Ladies  Home  Journal 
Dora  Miller  .  .  .  N.  Y.  Herald  Trib.  has  pictures  and  sketches 
Perkins  .  .  .  Fairchilds  .  .  .  promises   to    also   send   cable 

when  I  sail 

Dorothy  Stote  .  .  .  Phil.  Pub.  Ledger 
Baron  Wrangle  .  .  .  Hearst  .  .  .  very  impressed 
MegVillars  .  .  .  Graphic 

.  .  .  Those  are  the  only  ones  I  am  sure  were  there  .  .  .  but 
that  gives  us  two  big  syndicate  stories  (A.P.  and  N.E.A.)  and 
some  small  write-ups,  I  suppose.  Really  it  was  considered  a 
huge  success  by  everybody.  I'm  sore  as  hell  their  reputations 
here  depend  on  their  keeping  in  with  the  French  couturiers  . . . 
so  I  don't  suppose  they'll  cheer  about  the  independence  of  the 
American  couture  too  much.  A  woman  just  called  up  to  con- 
gratulate me  ...  whom  I  used  to  know.  ...  I  don't  know 
what's  going  to  happen  in  New  York  .  .  .  but  in  Paris  I'm 
famous,  all  right. 

...  I  wish  to  heaven  you'd  all  been  here  .  .  .  not  only  to 
help  .  .  .  but  also  to  see.  I  begin  to  consider  myself  quite  com- 
petent to  have  pulled  it  off.  All  credit  to  you,  Miss  Eleanor 
Shaler,  for  arranging  the  whole  thing,  movies  included.  After 
all,  I  haven't  my  bills  yet  but  I  figure  the  cost  of  one  New 


Former  ad  is  going  to  cover  us  nicely  .  .  and  that's  pretty  slick. 
I  wish  I  could  have  done  it  for  really  nothing  .  .  .  but  there 
was  tea  for  so  many  .  .  .  and  eight  models  ...  so  as  not  to 
have  any  hitches. 

...  In  the  evening  there  were  lots  of  very  grand  people. 
You  can  read  who  in  Town  and  Country  when  it  comes  out. 
I  think  it  was  all  very  worthwhile  .  .  .  except  my  getting  into 
such  a  state  of  weariness,  I  haven't  relaxed  yet.  I  have  an  idea 
about  next  spring  .  .  .  we'll  begin  to  send  a  group  of  models 
to  the  races  .  .  .  never  done  in  U.S.A.  .  .  .  good  couturiere 
kind  of  publicity.  Will  make  a  swell  story  if  we  plant  it  right. 
(The  department  stores  beat  me  to  that  bright  thought.) 

...  I  can't  wait  to  see  what  pops  in  New  York  .  .  .  but 
I'll  have  to.  It's  worth  a  good  deal  to  get  the  stuff  into  Town 
and  Country.  I  do  hope  you're  both  (Bud  and  Miss  Shaler,  my 
two  stockholders)  satisfied  with  me.  By  the  time  I  get  home,  if 
you  aren't,  I'll  be  able  to  bear  being  told.  Please  be  sure  to  tell 
Willy  Morris  about  Eddie  Lewis  .  .  .  and  that  Noble  Sissle, 
orchestra  leader,  is  one  of  God's  gentlemen.  He  is  dark  in  color 
and  says  he'll  send  his  wife  to  us  to  dress.  Just  three  Americans 
helping  one  another  .  .  .  Lewis,  Sissle,  and  me.  Lovely  group 
we  made.  (Every  time  something  went  wrong,  no  dressing 
rooms,  no  rehearsal,  the  two  gentlemen  would  take  me  firmly 
by  the  arm,  sit  me  at  a  table  and  say  "We're  Americans.  We'll 
see  you  through!")  .  .  .  Madame  Groult  came  .  .  .  compli- 
ments. Molyneux's  publicity  gal  was  stupefied  with  the  swell- 
ness  of  it  all. 

...  Of  course  none  of  the  couturiers  came,  but  I  have  their 
lovely  batch  of  letters  .  .  .  Maybe  Selma  can  have  a  bright 
idea  about  what  to  do  with  them. 

Another  thing  is  ...  tell  Selma  to  make  a  list  of  any  stories 
she  wants  me  to  write  .  .  .  and  try  hard  if  I'm  going  to  have 
to  do  radio  or  anything  public  to  make  it  for  September,  for  I 
must  have  a  little  peace  to  do  the  collection.  The  blue  dress 
is  lousy  .  .  .  bad  color  ...  I  did  not  show  it. 

The  pink  and  brown  is  divine  ...  as  is  the  black  striped 
chiffon  . . .  my  congratulations,  Bud.  (She  designed  that  one.) 
The  corduroy  things  are  swell,  I  think.  Plum  suit,  fair.  I  could 


have  done  something  to  it  in  the  process  if  I'd  been  there.  Any- 
way ...  I  like  the  one  thing  the  Herald  said  about  the  clothes, 
that  they  are  simple.  And  I  like  the  Intransigeant  saying  good 
taste  .  .  .  classic  .  .  .  and,  by  the  way,  I  was  certainly  not 
trembling  as  per  Mon.  Prevost.  I  was  only  in  a  slight  rage  be- 
cause they  mixed  everything  about  my  tables  and  guests  all  up, 
of  course. 

I  think  some  New  York  paper  should  be  amused  to  print  a 
translation  of  the  Intran  story  .  .  .  run  July  5  ...  and  not 
bought.  Since  I  started  writing  this,  I  have  seen  some  pictures 
of  the  show  and  one  will  be  printed  in  Paris  Midi. 

.  .  .  Wearily  yours  .  .  .  but  they  say  it  was  a  success  so 
who  cares, 


I  was  undoubtedly  trembling  with  something  more  than 
rage  on  the  historic  afternoon,  July  fourth,  1931.  The  girls 
ultimately  dressed  on  a  balcony  which  overlooked  the  main 
floor  and  on  which  eight  spot-light  men  were  working. 

This  means  more  if  you  realize  that  the  French  man- 
nequin is  usually  a  kept  lady  and  gets  no  great  respect  from 
anyone.  My  models  were  all  nice  young  American  girls  who 
showed  the  clothes  out  of  the  goodness  of  their  hearts. 

One  of  the  things  I  knew  before  the  show  started  was 
that  the  models  were  going  to  have  to  endure  having  their 
tails  pinched  by  every  passing  waiter  and  a  good  deal  of 
lighthearted  if  quite  vulgar  banter  from  the  lighting  men. 
I  fully  expected  some  model  to  let  out  a  piercing  scream  and 
flee  before  she  ever  appeared  on  the  floor. 

I  also  knew  the  management  just  hadn't  been  able  to  find 
time  for  a  rehearsal.  Before  the  show  began,  I  looked  down 
the  long,  long  polished  dance  floor.  The  tables  ten  deep  on  the 
sides,  were  crowded  with  people,  chattering,  amused.  I  was 
not  amused. 

Away  at  the  end  of  that  long  floor  all  I  saw  were  eight  01 


ten  very  shallow,  steep,  polished  steps,  leading  up  to  the 
platform  where  the  Noble  Sissle  and  his  orchestra  played. 
Down  those  steps  my  valiant  models  had  to  walk,  slowly, 
gracefully — and  unrehearsed. 

Slowly,  finally,  they  came.  Noble  Sissle  was  doing  his 
promised  part,  timing  his  music  to  their  un-rehearsed 
rhythm.  Down  came  my  innocent  brown  corduroy  suit  with 
its  turtle-necked  angora  pull-over.  Along  came  "Madame 
Shops,"  the  plum  suit  to  which  I  would  have  added  some- 
thing if  I  had  been  home  when  it  was  made. 

"Lydia  Pinkham,"  the  breakfast  in  bed  number,  a  red 
flannel  jacket  with  batiste  ruffled  panties  glossed  over  by  its 
batiste  ruffled  petticoat,  gave  the  audience  a  good  hearty 
laugh.  I  felt  better. 

The  clothes  were  on  the  whole  too  simple,  too  undra- 
matic,  to  be  shown  in  a  nightclub.  There  were  a  few  boos  and 
hisses  from  time  to  time,  answered  by  cheers  from  the  patri- 
otic visiting  American. 

I  had  no  sable  trimmed  wraps  for  the  models  to  drag  be- 
hind them,  no  glittering  lame  to  glaze  the  public's  eyes. 
There  was  "Picasso,"  my  first  dress  in  three  colors,  red, 
white  and  blue,  slim,  straight,  and  anatomical.  Nobody  no- 
ticed it  much,  I  think.  It  was  one  of  my  best-selling  evening 
dresses  for  the  next  three  years  in  New  York. 

Jean  Prevost  saw  "Liebestraum,"  the  Sunday  night 
dress,  with  its  parallel  stripes  of  double  and  single  chiffon 
clinging  to  the  hips  of  the  model.  "One  of  the  most  outstand- 
ing," he  thought,  and  so  did  Hawes  customers  for  another 
two  years. 

The  last  model  made  her  last  unrehearsed  turn  in  the 
last  and  twentieth  dress.  It  all  took  about  twenty  minutes. 
The  audience  clapped,  nicely,  warmly.  I  took  my  bow.  I 


said,  "Thank  you.  It's  nice  you  could  come.  Thank  you,  it 
was  fun.  Thank  you,  yes,  we're  doing  it  again  tonight." 

Again  tonight,  to  a  smaller  and  more  select  audience  of 
gala-clad  nightclubbers.  More  sophisticated,  they  were,  less 
amused  and  more  polite.  Thank  you  and  thank  you  and  good- 
night. .  .  "I  don't  know  what's  going  to  happen  in  New 
York — but  in  Paris  I'm  famous,  all  right." 

The  morning  after,  I  was  less  happy.  "Nobody  really 
saw  the  clothes,"  I  thought.  "I  didn't  really  get  much  press," 
I  sighed.  In  my  efforts  to  bide  by  the  instincts  of  self-pres- 
ervation, I  had  not  gone  out  of  my  way  for  news  reporters. 
Anyway,  I  wasn't  trying  to  create  an  international  scandal. 

Had  I  done  right,  had  I  done  wrong,  had  I  done  noth- 
ing? I  slept  for  twenty-four  hours. 

The  movies  capped  the  climax.  De  Rochemont  wanted  to 
take  them  out  of  Paris  the  following  Tuesday  because  he 
couldn't  get  any  sound  but  auto  horns  in  town  on  the  edge 
of  the  Champs  Elysees.  Some  of  the  models  had  had  enough 
and  refused  to  take  any  further  part.  I  collected  a  few  new 
ones,  including  a  red-headed  French  girl  who'd  been  brought 
to  the  show  by  the  father  of  a  friend. 

We  went  out  to  the  suburbs  of  Paris  to  a  garden  and  spent 
hours  and  hours  having  the  models  make  sounds.  Most  of 
the  hours  were  spent  teaching  the  red-haired  girl  from  Mar- 
seilles to  say  "I  yam  f  rm  Bwokleen." 

When  it  was  all  over  and  they'd  run  out  of  film  I  asked 
De  Rochemont  if  I  could  see  it  run  off  before  I  left  Paris.  He 
looked  a  little  embarrassed. 

"Oh,  we  aren't  going  to  release  it  in  France  after  all," 
he  said.  "We'll  just  send  it  over  to  America  to  be  developed." 

My  first  wave  of  anti-French  feeling  came  over  me.  I  got 
rheumatism  in  the  back  of  my  neck  and  a  bad  attack  of  hay 
fever.  I  hardly  dared  go  home  because  I'd  been  expected  to 


do  the  whole  show  for  nothing  and  it  cost  me  all  of  $300. 1 
could  cry  when  I  think  of  that  now.  But  it  gives  an  excellent 
idea  of  the  shoe  string  upon  which  one  American  designer 
rose  to  fame. 

Just  at  that  moment,  I  was  more  concerned  with  what  a 
bad  job  I  felt  I'd  done  than  anything  else.  I  was  sure  Selma 
Robinson,  my  press  agent,  and  Shaler  were  sitting  in  New 
York  agreeing  that  another  New  Yorker  ad  would  have  been 
worth  six  trips  like  this  one  to  Paris.  Fatigue  had  reduced  me 
to  a  point  beyond  rationality. 

I  returned  to  New  York  on  the  Berengaria  and  Selma  got 
on  at  Quarantine  with  the  ships'  news  reporters.  She  was  very 
brisk  and  pally  with  them.  I  was  escorted  to  the  top  deck  to 
have  my  picture  taken.  Then  we  invited  the  reporters  to  come 
to  my  cabin  for  a  drink.  Bringing  whiskey  for  reporters  dur- 
ing prohibition  was  routine  and  didn't  escape  even  a  novice 
like  me. 

On  the  way  down  to  the  cabin  Selma  asked  me  why  I 
hadn't  gotten  more  press.  At  that  moment  I  would  have  been 
happy  to  throw  her  over-board. 

"I  got  an  A.P.  story  and  one  from  N.E.A.,  and  Variety, 
and  some  odd  bits,"  I  said,  "and  Town  and  Country.'99 

"I  haven't  seen  any  of  them,"  she  muttered  darkly,  "but 
anyway,  there  was  a  note  in  Walter  Winchell's  column  yes- 
terday saying  'Ships'  news  reporters  look  out  for  Elizabeth 

And  they  swept  into  my  cabin  to  look  out  for  me.  They 
said,  "So  what  is  it  all  about?"  I  said,  "I  showed  my  own 
American-designed  clothes  in  Paris."  They  said,  "Come  on. 
There's  more  to  it  than  that."  I  kept  on  saying  wasn't  that 
enough.  After  all  I'd  never  done  anything  so  difficult  in  my 
life.  If  I'd  been  French  and  come  to  America  to  undermine 
the  U.  S.  Steel,  I  couldn't  have  had  a  colder  reception.  They 


drank  a  lot  of  Scotch  and  relaxed  and  insinuated  that  I  had 
married  the  Prince  of  Wales  and  was  just  holding  out  on 

Anyway  they  all  had  pictures  and  gave  their  own  short 
versions  of  my  story,  very  short  versions,  but  the  pictures 
with  their  captions,  from  the  conservative  New  York  Times 
with  its  "Shows  U.  S.  Gowns  in  Paris"  through  the  Daily 
News  with  something  about  "Reverse  English"  down  to  Mr. 
Hearst's  "She's  Barred  From  France,"  the  pictures  went  out 
over  the  wires  and  there  I  was — on  the  map. 

In  spite  of  not  being  news  to  the  Paris  Herald,  in  spite 
of  so  many  fashion  writers  in  Paris  being  hired  strictly  to  re- 
port French  clothes,  in  spite  of  that  horrible  week  of  rushing 
from  place  to  place  and  trying  to  do  it  all  single-handed,  the 
United  States  had  been  apprised  of  the  fact  that  an  Amer- 
ican girl  named  Hawes  had  shown  American  Designs  in 
Paris.  They  had  been  apprised  because  of  press-agentry,  of 
course.  The  ships'  news  reporters  put  me  on  the  map. 


UNFORTUNATELY  it  was  I,  and  not  my  clothes,  that  went 
onto  the  map  in  July,  1931.  What  was  worse,  I  became 
inordinately  fond  of  myself  after  my  picture  came  out  in 
all  those  papers. 

My  nervousness  in  regard  to  press  agents  dates  from  that 


time.  Although  I  have  since  learned  a  great  deal  more  about 
the  ways  and  means  and  results  of  publicity,  advertising, 
and  promotions  of  people  and  things  in  general,  press  agents 
still  give  me  the  jitters.  It  is  because  they  keep  you  concen- 
trating on  yourself  to  such  an  extent  that  pretty  soon  you  be- 
lieve the  whole  legend  they're  building  up. 

Luckily,  in  September,  after  the  Paris  showing  and  re- 
sultant fame,  I  had  a  good  case  of  hysterics  the  night  after 
I  showed  my  new  fall  clothes  and  regained  my  perspective.  I 
used  to  burst  into  tears  regularly  twice  a  year  on  the  comple- 
tion of  each  collection,  because  when  I  showed  it,  everyone 
would  say,  "It's  the  best  collection  you've  ever  made." 

I  always  knew  some  of  it  was  good  and  some  bad  and 
always  it  seemed  as  if  no  one  would  be  bothered  to  criticize 
it  from  any  fundamental  point  of  view.  Ultimately  I  realized 
that  the  "art"  of  designing  clothes  in  America  is  too  com- 
mercial to  have  its  theoretical  critics.  The  American  designer 
of  clothes,  or  the  store  which  sells  clothes,  has  recourse  to 
publicity  or  advertising  as  the  means  of  notifying  the  public 
about  what  goes  on. 

Everyone  in  America  is  fairly  clear  about  the  meaning 
of  the  word  advertising.  For  a  certain  amount  of  money  I,  or 
anyone  who  has  a  product  for  sale,  buys  space  in  a  news- 
paper or  periodical  which  is  presumably  read  by  people  who 
want  what  I  sell.  In  this  space  I,  the  advertiser,  theoretically 
have  the  privilege  of  printing  any  pictures  or  words  I  like 
concerning  my  product. 

The  newspaper  or  magazine  retains  the  right  to  refuse 
any  ad  which  it  considers  false.  It  also  retains  the  right  to 
try  and  argue  the  advertiser  out  of  printing  news  which  is 
going  to  make  a  liar  out  of  some  other  advertiser. 

As  far  as  fashion  advertising  goes,  it  is  no  worse  than 
any  other  advertising  as  regards  the  copy  used  to  describe 


the  clothes  shown.  To  say  that  over-exaggeration,  hyperbole, 
is  the  general  rule  in  advertising  copy,  would  be  to  put  it 
mildly.  In  general  the  public  knows  that  the  super-glamor- 
ous, hyper-chic,  uncontrollably  lush  words  are  the  bunk. 

But  where  the  illustrations  are  concerned,  fashion  ads 
have  a  big  chance  to  draw  ten  yards  of  material  into  a  skirt 
where  only  three  exist  in  reality,  or  to  double  the  width  of  a 
fur  collar.  The  only  net  result  is  that  when  the  lady  comes  in 
to  buy  the  coat  as  shown  in  the  ad,  she  sees  that  the  illustra- 
tion was  made  through  rose-colored  glasses.  She  can  always 
refuse  to  buy  and  has  only  lost  some,  perhaps,  valuable  time. 

So,  to  go  into  the  matter  of  fashion  advertising  would 
only  be  to  question  the  entire  advertising  business,  and 
sooner  or  later  the  American  public  will  undoubtedly  gel 
surfeited  with  it  and  rebel.  I  want  to  talk  about  the  specific 
matter  of  fashion  publicity.  Publicity  is  editorial  mention  in 
the  pages  of  a  newspaper  or  magazine  for  which  one  does  not 
pay  directly  or  does  not  pay  at  all. 

Publicity  for  which  one  does  not  pay  at  all  must  be  based 
on  the  subject  having  a  real  news  value.  The  editors  of  the 
paper  or  magazine,  being  entirely  convinced  that  the  public 
wants  to  know  certain  facts,  print  the  facts. 

The  longer  I  live,  the  more  I  realize  that  there  is  com- 
paratively little  real  news  in  the  world  of  style  and  fashion. 
What  holds  true  for  the  Paris  fashion  reporter  holds  equally 
true  for  the  New  York  fashion  reporter.  Filling  a  daily  col- 
umn with  straight  fashion  news  is  one  long  fight.  The  news- 
paper fashion  reporter  should  be  allowed  to  write  about  any- 
thing but  clothes  two-thirds  of  the  time. 

The  editors  of  most  newspapers  feel  that,  since  they  have 
such  a  large  amount  of  daily  advertising  concerning  fashion, 
they  must  run  daily  fashion  columns.  If  those  columns  men- 
tion names  of  specific  designers  or  stores,  an  enormous  ri- 


valry  begins  between  various  advertisers.  If  Lord  and  Taylor 
and  R.  H.  Macy  take  an  equal  number  of  advertising  lines 
per  week,  both  stores  feel  they  can  demand  an  equal  amount 
of  editorial  mention. 

In  order  to  cope  with  this,  the  fashion  writer  would  have 
to  make  mathematical  calculations  weekly,  dividing  her 
space  in  direct  relation  to  the  advertisers  in  her  paper.  Ob- 
viously Lord  and  Taylor  and  R.  H.  Macy  do  not  necessarily 
furnish  equal  amounts  of  fashion  news  per  week  or  per 
month.  The  fashion  writer  must  be  allowed  some  freedom  in 
writing  her  column. 

The  New  York  newspapers  developed  a  uniform  policy 
of  mentioning  no  American  names  at  all  in  their  fashion  col- 
umns. They  often  use  a  little  box  advising  the  public  to  write 
in  and  ask  where  the  articles  or  garments  mentioned  can  be 
bought.  Sometimes  they  simply  write  up  certain  clothes  or 
print  pictures  of  them  as  general  news  without  any  possible 
identification  of  the  source.  The  paper  protects  itself  in  this 
manner  from  the  competitive  jealousies  of  its  advertisers 
and  at  the  same  time  allows  the  fashion  writer  to  talk  about 

In  1929,  when  I  began  to  design  in  New  York,  practi- 
cally all  the  papers  with  the  exception  of  the  Hearst  publica- 
tions pursued  the  above  policy  rigidly.  It  was  literally 
impossible  for  the  majority  of  fashion  writers  here  to  men- 
tion my  name  even  if  they  liked  Hawes  clothes. 

The  fact  that  I  designed  everything  I  sold  did  not  solve 
the  matter.  There  were  few  if  any  designers  with  their  own 
shops  and  mentioning  them  by  name  was  considered  free  ad- 
vertising. The  names  of  all  the  French  designers  were  always 
mentioned.  Although  their  clothes  were  sold  in  most  stores 
here,  the  French  designer  did  not  officially  qualify  as  a  po- 
tential advertiser. 


The  policy  of  not  naming  designers  who  work  in  New 
York  has  been  slowly  cracking  up  in  the  past  decade.  By 
1937  all  New  York  newspapers  with  the  exceptions  of  the 
New  York  Times  and  the  Herald  Tribune  had  given  in  to 
some  extent.  The  World-Telegram,  for  instance,  would  not, 
in  1937,  print  the  name  of  a  designer  below  a  sketch  or  pho- 
tograph but  the  fashion  columnist  could  name  names  in  her 
adjoining  column. 

The  case  of  the  New  York  Times  is  more  irritating.  Their 
editorial  policy  remains  publicly  adamant  on  the  subject, 
yet  split  wide  open  on  one  very  special  occasion  connected 
with  Mrs.  Franklin  D.  Roosevelt.  The  Times  rotogravure  sec- 
tion blazed  forth  one  Sunday  with  a  full  length  picture  of 
the  lady  in  a  dress  credited  to  Sally  Milgrim.  I  guess  it  was 
Mrs.  Roosevelt's  inaugural  ball  gown  or  something  of 
equally  historic  importance.  The  Milgrim  credit  line  was  no 
less  enraging  to  those  of  us  who  had  remained  unheralded 
for  several  years,  while  dressing  other  ladies  of  equal  impor- 

The  Times  rotogravure  section,  like  many  other  New 
York  rotogravures,  prints  pages  devoted  to  photographs  of 
the  new  French  designs  each  season.  The  creations  of  Moly- 
neux,  Lelong,  Patou,  Lanvin,  et  al.,  are  proudly  shown  to  the 
public  with  the  names  of  the  individual  designers  attached. 

Another  week,  along  comes  the  rotogravure  section  with 
a  banner  headline:  American  designed  clothes.  There  are 
pages  of  dresses,  coats,  and  suits.  The  fabrics  are  described, 
the  colors  and  lines  are  written  up.  "Our  own  American  de- 
signs" ...  by  whom?  Why,  by  Americans.  Who  are  they? 
What  are  their  names?  Never  mind  that,  these  are  "Clothes 
designed  in  America"  whoopee — by  perfectly  nameless  peo- 
ple, robots  maybe. 

Syndicate  fashion  writers  for  out  of  town  papers  can 


use  names  and  do.  A  great  many  people  in  the  hinterland, 
where  no  Hawes  designs  existed,  knew  I  designed  in  New 
York  before  the  local  residents  were  apprised  of  the  fact. 

The  plight  of  Elizabeth  Hawes  in  trying  to  gain  recogni- 
tion as  a  designer  from  1929  to  the  present  day  is  the  plight 
of  all  designers  in  America,  and  particularly  in  New  York. 
Hollywood  has  built  up  its  designers  along  with  the  rest  of 
the  stars.  Chicago  produced  a  fashion  show  of  Chicago  de- 
signed and  manufactured  clothes  in  the  summer  of  1937. 
Thousands  of  people  went  to  see  it.  In  New  York,  in  the  fall 
of  1937,  one  of  the  most  important  groups  of  women  in  fash- 
ion work  found  that,  while  they  were  ready  and  willing  to 
put  on  a  show  of  American  designed  clothes,  the  New  York 
clothing  manufacturers  were  not  yet  in  a  humor  to  co- 

The  fashion  magazines  are  a  powerful  potential  source 
of  publicity  for  the  designer  in  America.  Perhaps  you  re- 
member I  mentioned,  proudly,  the  presence  of  represent- 
atives of  the  largest  fashion  magazines  at  my  first  opening. 
They  were  not  only  there,  but  they  subsequently  printed 
sketches  of  my  clothes.  What  is  more,  they  still  do  from  time 
to  time.  I  am  very  grateful  to  the  editorial  departments  for 
this — because  I  am  not,  at  the  moment,  an  advertiser. 

The  life  of  the  ladies  who  work  on  the  editorial  boards 
of  fashion  magazines  is  in  my  estimation  a  most  unpleasant 
one.  They  would  prefer  to  fill  up  the  magazine  with  things 
which  they  want  to  show  the  public  because  they  think  the 
dresses  are  pretty  or  chic  or  smart  or  whatever  it  is  they  like. 
Although  they  are  ostensibly  hired  to  do  just  this,  they  are 
seldom  allowed  to. 

The  editorial  board  of  any  fashion  magazine  is  just  a 
necessary  evil  to  the  business  manager.  If  advertisers  were 
bright  enough  to  make  ads  which  the  public  really  wanted 


to  read,  if  Celanese  would  only  print  attractive  little  stories 
and  bright  quips  on  the  pages  for  which  it  pays,  then  a  fash* 
ion  magazine  could  be  published  which  was  all  ads.  Then 
the  business  manager  wouldn't  forever  have  to  remind  the 
editorial  board  that  if  they  don't  do  something  about  Lady- 
Dee  corsets,  we  will  lose  the  advertising. 

As  it  is,  Lady-Dee  corsets  takes  a  certain  number  of 
pages  a  year,  for  which  they  pay  some  $1,500  each,  for  the 
purpose  of  telling  the  world  about  what  divine  corsets  they 
make.  At  the  same  time,  Lady-Dee  corsets  expects  the  edito- 
rial department  to  tell  the  world  what  divine  corsets  they 
make  and  do  a  much  better  job  of  it  than  any  advertising 
agency  on  earth. 

It  is  not  that  the  editorial  department  can't  come  through. 
It  is  that,  sometimes,  they  don't  just  happen  to  think  that 
Lady-Dee  corsets  are  wonderful.  They  ignore  Lady-Dee  cor- 
sets, willfully.  The  advertising  manager  comes  in.  He  bangs 
his  fist  on  the  table.  He  gets  results.  A  photograph  of  a  girl  in 
Lady-Dee  corsets  and  cellophane  comes  out  in  the  editorial 
pages.  The  account  is  saved. 

Into  the  space  where  went  the  photograph  of  the  girl  in 
a  corset  there  had  been  going,  perhaps,  a  photograph  of  a 
girl  in  a  dress  designed  and  made  by  someone  who  does  not 
advertise  in  the  magazine.  Maybe  that  photograph  gets  in 
next  month.  Maybe  it  never  gets  in. 

Pity  the  poor  editorial  department.  They  are  driven  to  a 
point  where  they  go  first  for  everything  to  the  advertisers  of 
the  magazine.  There  are  plenty  of  them.  The  editors  find 
more  or  less  what  they  approve  of  from  the  advertisers. 

Or,  believe  it  or  not,  if  there  just  isn't  anything,  they 
send  bright  young  girls  down  to  tell  the  advertisers  what  to 
make  so  it  can  be  put  into  the  magazine  without  blushing. 
This,  I  would  say,  is  fair.  The  magazines  make  their  money 


and  pay  their  salaries  through  the  advertiser.  They  should 
help  him  out. 

The  thing  of  it  is,  what  the  public  sees  in  the  pages  of 
any  fashion  magazine  is  not  always  what  is  selected  for  the 
good  of  the  public  but  often  what  is  selected  for  the  good  of 
the  advertising  department. 

The  magazine  is  naturally  in  business  to  make  money. 
The  biggest  advertisers  are  not  necessarily  the  ones  with  the 
best  merchandise.  A  sort  of  compromise  is  effected  between 
the  advertising  department  and  the  editorial  board  of  any 
fashion  magazine.  In  return  for  every  ten  editorial  pages  al- 
lotted to  the  wares  of  advertisers,  a  half  a  page  is  allowed 
to  the  wares  of  non-advertisers. 

There  have  been  magazines  which  decided  that  a  good 
snappy  editorial  department  brought  a  certain  kind  of  reader 
and  the  readers  brought  the  advertisers.  Therefore  the  edito- 
rial department  must  not  be  influenced  by  the  advertising 
department.  I  have  never  known  of  a  straight  fashion  maga- 
zine that  was  run  in  this  way.  I  believe  it  could  be  done. 

It  seems  to  me  the  experience  of  the  New  Yorker  proves 
it.  The  New  Yorker  is  not  a  fashion  magazine,  heaven  knows 
and  thank  goodness.  It,  nevertheless,  sells  a  fair  amount  of 
space  to  fashion  advertisers  who  want  to  have  its  readers 
know  about  them.  It  is  the  policy  of  the  New  Yorker  that  the 
editorial  department  and  the  advertising  department  must 
not  speak  to  one  another.  Lois  Long  writes  as  she  pleases  and 
goes  to  see  what  she  feels  like  in  the  fashion  mart. 

Sometimes  I  advertise  in  the  New  Yorker,  sometimes  I 
don't.  L.  L.  usually  gets  around  to  see  my  clothes  twice  a 
year.  Sometimes  she  likes  them,  sometimes  she  doesn't.  That 
is  her  business  and  she  reserves  the  right  to  say  what  she 
thinks.  Whether  or  not  I'm  advertising,  is  of  no  importance. 

I  was  going  to  say,  probably  she  doesn't  even  know. 

Maybe  she  doesn't.  But  the  New  Yorker  editorial  board  did 
once  know  that  I  was  advertising.  In  an  access  of  self-right- 
eousness or  something,  they  told  someone  who  handed  in  a 
profile  about  me  that  they  couldn't  print  it  because  I  was  an 
advertiser!  I  immediately  gave  up  advertising  but  they 
didn't  print  one  anyway. 

The  New  Yorker  isn't  the  only  magazine  which  separates 
its  editorial  from  its  advertising.  The  big  women's  magazines 
can  do  it  easily  where  fashion  is  concerned  because  they  do 
not  carry  any  local  dress  advertising.  The  Playbill,  the  New 
York  theatre  program,  allows  its  fashion  girl  to  go  her  own 
sweet  way — with  occasional  proddings,  I  gather. 

There  is  seldom  a  young  designer  with  enough  money  to 
buy  advertising  space  in  the  large  fashion  magazines.  The 
designer  therefore  is  deprived  of  a  wide  public  hearing  from 
that  source. 

The  young  designer  can  not  get  a  great  deal  of  notice  in 
the  newspaper  fashion  columns.  What  is  a  young  girl  to  do? 

She  can  hire  a  press  agent  who  deals  with  the  matter  as 
best  she  may.  The  press  agent  deals  with  the  commodity  of 
style  or  fashion  which  is  seldom  news.  The  press  agent  must 
turn  the  designer  herself  into  news.  Here  the  feature  story 
writers  and  the  straight  news  reporters  come  in. 

A  feature  story  writer  is  not  interested  in  talking  about 
the  basic  stylish  features  of  the  work  of  a  clothes  designer. 
Feature  stories  deal  with  intimate  glimpses  into  one's  private 
life  or  the  more  amusing  angles  of  one's  work. 

The  world  is  apprised  of  the  fact  that  Elizabeth  Hawes 
goes  off  alone  on  freight  boats,  that  she  has  Afghan  hounds, 
that  she  likes  to  ride  a  bicycle  in  France,  that  she  has  made 
a  jacket  of  mattress  ticking  or  a  skirt  of  shaved  lamb.  The 
world  begins  to  think,  quite  rightly,  that  if  Elizabeth  Hawes 


is  representative  of  American  Designers,  those  designers 
probably  have  amusing  lives  but  are  a  little  mad. 

The  press  agent  of  Elizabeth  Hawes  wants  to  promote 
Hawes  clothes.  She  is  unable  to  do  much  on  that  idea.  She 
resorts  to  any  sort  of  idea  which  will,  as  a  last  resort,  get  the 
name  Hawes  into  print. 

I  received  a  good  deal  of  press  on  the  Paris  showing. 
None  of  it  mentioned  whether  the  clothes  I  showed  were 
good  or  bad.  I  was  a  big  brave  girl  who'd  taken  coals  to  New- 
castle. I  had  bearded  the  lions  in  their  dens. 

My  press  agent  got  nervous,  a  couple  of  months  after  the 
clippings  of  my  Paris  exploits  stopped  coming  in.  She  said, 
"The  rotogravure  sections  have  a  bad  time  getting  photo- 
graphs which  are  timely  at  Thanksgiving.  If  you  will  let  me 
have  your  picture  taken  with  a  pumpkin,  I  am  sure  I  can  get 

it  in." 

I  said,  "I  am  very  busy.  Why  don't  you  have  my  picture 
taken  later  with  a  holly  wreath  and  get  it  in  for  Christmas?" 

She  said,  "You  are  just  beginning  to  get  the  idea." 

I  didn't  have  my  picture  taken  with  a  pumpkin — or  with 
a  holly  wreath.  But  I  had  gotten  the  idea. 

I  realized  that  building  up  a  name  as  a  designer  in  Amer- 
ica was  a  ticklish  job.  It  was  going  to  have  to  be  accomplished 
without  benefit  of  much  advertising.  I  also  decided  I  had 
better  get  along  as  best  I  could  without  a  press  agent.  I  was 
afraid  maybe  I'd  be  broken  down  and  find  myself  giving  an 
Easter  speech  dressed  in  an  egg. 

The  whole  story  of  the  Paris  showing  and  press-agentry 
gave  me  a  healthy  horror  of  press  stunts.  To  me,  showing  the 
clothes  in  Paris  was  not  basically  a  press  stunt.  I  had  a  good 
sound  fundamental  desire  to  make  the  world  know  that 
clothes  were  not  designed  only  in  France.  I  had  then,  as  I 
still  have,  a  big  urge  to  see  everyone,  male  and  female,  beau- 


tifully  and  functionally  dressed.  I  believed  then,  as  I  still  do, 
that  if  the  hooey  of  Paris  fashion  could  be  scraped  oil,  de- 
signers would  be  left  to  function  quietly  all  over  the  world, 
working  satisfactorily  for  their  small  groups  of  customers. 

The  fact  that  showing  the  clothes  in  Paris  didn't  turn  on 
me  and  rend  me  limb  from  limb  was  partially  a  lucky  acci- 
dent. Because  I  didn't  have  enough  power  or  money  to  make 
it  into  a  world-beating  international  press  story,  the  whole 
universe  wasn't  given  an  opportunity  to  laugh  very  hard  at 
me  and  at  all  American  designing. 

American  designing  was  still  in  its  infancy.  My  show  in 
Paris  was,  in  a  sense,  a  childish  gesture  of  defiance.  As  I 
learned  in  the  next  two  years,  nobody  was  going  to  be  able  to 
kill  designing  here,  but  over-promoting  before  it  was  ready 
would  set  it  back. 

Since  the  Paris  showing,  I've  never  tried  to  pull  off  any 
press  stunt.  I've  done  a  few  small  things  which  have  hit  the 
national  news  like  showing  clothes  in  Russia.  I  have  never 
tried  to  give  out  any  stories  about  myself  or  my  clothes  un- 
less I  was  convinced  that  they  were  fit  to  print. 

All  in  all,  the  publicity  path  for  the  budding  designer  is 
not  an  easy  one  to  follow,  and  I  don't  fully  believe  in  the 
survival  of  the  fittest  where  designers  in  America  are  con- 
cerned. All  dress  designers  do  not  have  friends  to  help  them, 
as  I  have  had,  in  making  a  name  for  myself.  And  many  de- 
signers would  be  unable  to  adjust  to  becoming  a  news  item. 
After  all,  we  are  supposedly  merely  designers,  who  want  to 
ply  our  trade.  It's  quite  a  good  deal  to  expect  us  to  be  press 
agent  and  business  manager  as  well,  and  all  of  this  without 
enough  money  to  have  the  benefit  of  the  advertising  depart- 
ment's O.K. 

I  think  this  more  concretely  now  than  I  did  in  1931. 
Since  then  I've  seen  some  quite  good  designers  come  and  go 


because  they  couldn't  scream  loud  enough  to  attract  atten- 
tion, and  had  no  money  to  pay  someone  else  to  do  it  for  them. 
Since  1931,  when  the  ships'  news  reporters  put  me  on  the 
map,  I've  become  quite  convinced  that  the  public  wants  and 
the  manufacturers  need  America's  future  designers.  I've 
built  up  my  own  business  which  is  an  insignificant  bit  of  the 
proof.  The  more  important  part  of  the  story  lies  in  the  field 
of  mass  production. 


LLJP  for 

MY  INTRODUCTION  to  mass  production  came  about  in 
that  rather  devious  and  underhanded  way  which  runs 
straight  through  the  story  of  fashion.  It  was  Mary  Lewis,  the 
vice-president  of  Best  and  Co.,  who  convinced  me,  for  better 
or  for  worse,  that  I  should  learn  about  clothes  in  the  raw 
white  light  of  city  streets. 


This  is  what  happened:  My  chief  assistant,  Mary  Robin- 
son, designed  a  few  things  for  Hawes  Inc.  along  with  her 
other  functions  of  stockholder,  model,  saleslady.  She,  in  the 
fall  of  1931,  designed  a  small  leather  jacket  which  buttoned 
on  either  side  of  the  neck  a  la  bellboy. 

This  jacket,  being  of  leather,  was  difficult  to  sew  in  our 
workroom  so  I  found  a  leather  coat  manufacturer  to  make  it 
for  us.  I  explained  to  him  that  I  wouldn't  sell  many  but  that 
if  he  would  make  those  few,  he  could  have  the  design  to  sell 
out  of  New  York.  It  has  always  been  my  proud  boast  that 
what  you  bought  at  Hawes  Inc.  can  be  bought  nowhere  else 
in  New  York  and,  usually,  nowhere  else  in  the  world. 

The  manufacturer  came  up  to  the  shop  to  get  the  jacket 
and  assured  me  that  he  didn't  want  the  design  to  sell  himself 
at  all.  He  was  just  a  good  fellow  helping  me  out.  As  he  left, 
I  nevertheless  called  after  him,  "And  if  you  do  sell  the  jacket 
in  New  York,  I  will  sue  you!" 

We  all  laughed  pleasantly  and  began  to  sell  the  jacket 
for  $65. 1  paid  him  $15  to  make  it,  me  supplying  the  leather. 
It  cost  us  about  $20  so  we  were  getting  a  66  %  mark-up  which 
is  average  in  specialty  shops,  although  was  somewhat  higher 
than  I  had  to  take  on  most  of  the  clothes  at  that  time.  I  will  go 
into  the  matter  of  pricing  expensive  clothes  later. 

Life  was  going  along  calmly  and  pleasantly  when,  one 
Monday  morning,  my  telephone  began  to  ring  and  rang  all 
day.  Everybody  was  calling  up  to  tell  me  that  my  jacket  had 
been  advertised  by  Best  and  Co.  as  "Schiaparelli's  Little 
Mess  Jacket."  It  was  shortly  after  my  fall  opening  in  Sep- 
tember 1931,  and  all  the  fashion  girls  had  seen  the  jacket  in 
my  shop. 

I  remained  philosophical.  I  said,  "It  is  the  first  time  it 
has  happened  but  it  won't  be  the  last.  Why  worry?"  Then  I 
got  a  copy  of  the  ad  and  slowly  my  anger  began  to  rise. 


Schiaparelli's  little  mess  jacket,  indeed!  It  was  my  mess 
jacket.  It  was,  of  course,  Mary  Robinson's  mess  jacket,  but 
when  you're  the  top,  everything  automatically  becomes  yours 
no  matter  how  unfair  it  is. 

I  rang  up  Mary  Lewis,  the  vice-president  of  Best  and  Co. 
She  had  evidently  been  apprised  of  the  facts  of  the  case. 
She  got  into  her  hat  and  coat  and  came  right  up.  She  fixed  me 
by  being  nice  about  it  and  I  believed  her  when  she  said  she 
had  had  no  idea  it  wasn't  a  Schiaparelli.  Probably  she  didn't, 
but  possibly  Best  were  liable  just  the  same. 

However,  she  said,  "I'll  advertise  it  as  yours  at  once."  I 
said,  "Oh,  no,  don't  do  that.  I've  never  been  advertised  by 
anyone  except  myself  for  myself." 

"Ford  makes  all  his  money  on  Fords,  not  Lincolns,"  said 
Mary  Lewis. 

"I'll  call  you  up,"  I  said,  and  after  a  couple  of  days,  I 
did  call  her  up  and  said  okay. 

I  then  went  to  see  the  manufacturer  who'd  copied  my 
jacket  for  me  and  for  Best  and  Co.  "Miss  Hawes,"  he  said, 
very  seriously,  "I  never  even  do  any  business  with  Best.  I 
couldn't  have  sold  them  the  jacket." 

I  looked  hopelessly  around  at  the  walls,  thick  with  ads 
of  leather  coats,  ads  from  Best  and  Co.  "What  are  these?" 
I  asked. 

"Oh,  just  from  years  ago,"  he  said  firmly. 

We  went  on  like  that  for  about  twenty  minutes.  Finally 
I  arose  to  my  feet  and  displayed  temperament,  a  thing  I  very 
rarely  do.  "This  is  the  most  disgusting  business  in  the 
world,"  I  declaimed  as  I  paced  the  floor.  "I  wish  I  had  never 
been  born  if  I  have  to  be  associated  with  anything  so  filthy. 
It  is  a  mass  of  lies  and  thievery.  Not  even  a  nice  young  girl 
like  myself  can  escape.  I'm  ashamed  to  think  that  I'm  asso- 
ciated with  the  making  of  clothes.  I  wish  I  were  dead."  I  took 


out  my  handkerchief  and  blew  my  nose.  I  felt  tears  coming 
to  my  eyes.  The  manufacturer  looked  at  me,  very  worried, 
very  pale,  he  became.  I  let  out  a  small  sob  and  all  the  sorrows 
of  his  race  overcame  him. 

"Miss  Hawes,"  he  said,  "I  cannot  tell  a  lie.  I  sold  the 
jacket  to  Best  and  Co." 

"Thanks,"  I  said,  whipping  away  my  handkerchief  and 
making  for  the  elevator. 

"What  are  you  going  to  do?"  He  followed  me  out  the 

"I  don't  know.  Sue  you  probably." 

"Ooh!"  he  gasped.  "You  wouldn't  be  so  mean!" 

My  lawyer  said  I  had  no  case  so  I  just  tore  up  the  $75 
bill  for  the  jackets  the  man  had  made  for  me  and  waited.  In 
the  meantime,  I  refunded  the  difference  between  our  selling 
price  of  $65  and  Best's  of  $29.50  to  the  customers  who  had 
bought  the  jacket  from  us.  Our  leather  was  better,  but  other- 
wise the  jacket  was  the  same.  Mass  production  and  selling 
makes  quite  a  difference  in  price.  Best  probably  paid  him 
$15  including  leather  and  took  a  50%  mark-up. 

God  was  on  my  side  as  usual.  I  was  served  with  a  sum- 
mons by  the  manufacturer  for  the  price  of  five  jackets  he'd 
delivered.  He  did  it  upon  getting  quite  a  hot  letter  from  me 
after  his  third  bill.  I  said  that  if  he  kept  on  sending  bills,  I'd 
sue  him.  Obviously  he  didn't  believe  me.  Nobody  goes  to 
court  for  $75. 

We  did.  I  filed  a  counter  claim  of  $1,000  for  damages  on 
the  grounds  that  the  entire  outfit,  of  which  the  jacket  was  a 
part,  had  been  ruined,  that  I  could  no  longer  sell  it  since 
Best  was  selling  the  jacket.  They  had  called  the  suit  in  the 
municipal  court  and  my  lawyer  didn't  ask  for  a  jury. 

We  had  one  glorious  day  in  court.  They  swore  that  they 
had  never  seen  me  before,  first,  and  secondly  that  it  was  a 


Schiaparelli  design  in  any  case.  Just  then,  fortunately,  came 
recess  for  lunch. 

I  leapt  out  and  got  Schiaparelli's  representative  in  Amer- 
ica to  come  and  swear  that  Madame  Schiaparelli  had  not 
designed  the  jacket.  The  judge  said  he  gathered  it  was  just 
as  if  someone  had  stolen  the  coat  of  his  suit,  only  leaving  him 
the  vest  and  trousers.  He  awarded  me  $150  damages  which 
I  turned  over  to  the  lawyer  and  so  broke  even. 

Mary  Lewis  told  me  afterward  the  courts  were  preju- 
diced in  favor  of  the  designer  in  such  cases.  Maybe  it's  only 
justice.  At  any  rate,  I've  never  had  the  faintest  fear  of  being 
copied  from  that  day  to  this.  I  always  know  there  is  some  way 
to  get  the  person  who  does  it,  even  if  I  have  to  be  sued  myself 
to  accomplish  it.  (Anyway,  I  can  always  design  another 

The  more  important  upshot  was  Miss  Lewis'  remark, 
boring  into  my  brain  "Ford  makes  all  his  money  on  Fords, 
not  Lincolns."  I  was  barely  making  enough  money  on  my 
Lincolns  to  keep  us  all  getting  our  small  salaries  every  week. 

I  was  not  particularly  distraught  about  this,  but  the  de- 
pression was  getting  worse.  Those  weeks  were  beginning 
when  I  hadn't  enough  money  ahead  on  Monday  to  pay  the 
next  Friday  payroll. 

Almost  immediately  up  popped  Lord  and  Taylor  with  an 
idea.  They  wanted  to  promote  American  Designers!  They'd 
been  mulling  over  the  thought  for  two  years.  Now,  they  said, 
is  the  time.  Who,  they  were  then  forced  to  ask  themselves, 
are  the  designers? 

For  the  next  few  years,  there  was  a  game  which  you  could 
start  in  any  group  of  fashion  people.  You  just  said,  "Who 
are  the  American  Designers?"  Then  you  watched  everyone 
scurry  around  looking  in  corners  to  try  and  find  them.  Lord 
and  Taylor  found  some  and  set  about  to  "promote"  them. 


Promotion  is  one  of  those  bright  thoughts  which  Fashion 
uses  to  its  full  extent.  To  promote  something  in  the  depart- 
ment store  world  of  fashion  is  to  first  decide  to  spend  a  cer- 
tain amount  of  money  in  advertising  and  buying  merchan- 
dise. What  the  merchandise  is,  doesn't  matter  much.  The 
idea  is  to  make  a  big  public  stir  which  will  fill  your  store  up 
with  people.  They  may  not  buy  the  thing  you  have  chosen  to 
promote,  but  if  they  get  into  the  store,  they  are  likely  to  buy 
something  else. 

The  best  trick  is  to  promote  something  which  the  public 
will,  fortuitously,  actually  want.  That  way,  you  won't  lose 
too  much  money  getting  them  to  spend  what  they  have.  A 
promotion  is  the  department  store  version  of  a  press  stunt. 
If  it  is  a  good  stunt,  it  makes  the  news  columns  and  shows  a 
profit.  Otherwise,  you  have  to  give  out  all  the  news  yourself 
in  paid  ads  and  you  may  lose  money. 

Promoting  American  Designers  was  a  press  stunt  for 
Lord  and  Taylor.  There  was  a  depression.  They  needed  busi- 
ness. What  to  do?  American  Designers. 

Since  I  lost  absolutely  nothing  by  being  promoted  in  the 
first  batch  of  American  Designers,  but  actually  gained  in  the 
long  run,  I  consider  myself  quite  unprejudiced.  Lest  every- 
one think  that  I  am  just  ascribing  commercial  motives  to 
what  was  a  generous  gesture  on  the  part  of  Lord  and  Taylor, 
I  quote  from  the  World-Telegram  of  April  13,  1932: 


The  first  complete  showing  of  Amer-  audience  of  professional  critics  who 

ican  fashions  created  by  Elizabeth  afterward  were  luncheon  guests   of 

Hawes,  Annette  Simpson  and  Edith  Miss  Dorothy  Shaver,  vice-president 

Reuss,    three    American    designers,  and  Director  of  the  store's  style  Bu- 

who  have  stepped  into  the  first  rank  reau. 

of  international  styling,  was  held  to-  The  dominant  note  of  the  display 

day  at  Lord  and  Taylor's  before  an  was  the  "Americanism"  of  the  design- 


ing,  a  trend  which  merchandise  ex-  must  be  clothes  which  are  intrinsi- 

ecutives  said  would  be  a  new  means  cally  American,  and  that  only  the 

of  stimulating  business  in  the  dress  American  designer  can  create  them. 

industry   (author's  italics).  That  is  why  we  turn  today  to  com- 

"We  still  doff  our  hats  to  Paris,"  mend  the  spirit  and  the  enterprise  of 

Miss  Shaver  said  at  the  luncheon,  these  young  New  York  women  who 

"Paris  gave  us  our  inspiration,  and  are  working  so  successfully  to  create 

still  does.  But  we  believe  that  there  an  American  style." 

We  had  come  a  long  way  since  1927  when  I  wanted  to 
design  clothes  for  Lord  and  Taylor  in  Paris.  There  was  no 
necessity  for  their  falling  for  that  idea.  The  public  was  going 
for  everything.  Everything  was  French  and  it  sold. 

Now,  in  the  spring  of  1932,  there  was  a  depression.  Buy- 
ing French  models  was  expensive.  Moreover,  they  were  sold 
by  Klein  for  $4.75.  Besides  that,  the  French  weren't  paying 
their  debts  and  the  British  were  "Buying  British."  The  pub- 
lic was  holding  onto  its  nickels.  It  needed  something  star- 
tling to  pry  them  loose. 

Lord  and  Taylor  bought  six  models  from  me  which  I 
designed  specially  for  them  at  $200  each.  When  they  first 
asked  me,  I  was  in  great  doubt  what  to  do.  Mary  Lewis  said 
she  thought  I  should  go  ahead  and  ask  all  the  traffic  would 
bear.  $200  seemed  to  be  all  the  traffic  would  bear.  I  hesitated 
a  long  time  because  I  was  afraid  I  would  alienate  my  own 
clients  by  making  cheap  clothes. 

Finally  I  went  in  all  the  way.  I  was  somewhat  horrified 
at  finding  I  had  to  attend  the  luncheon  with  Annette  Simpson 
and  Miss  Reuss  and  present  my  own  clothes  to  the  assembled 
multitude.  I  never  got  through  anything  like  that  without 
gritting  my  teeth  and  muttering  for  God  for  country  and  for 
Yale  over  to  myself. 

The  luncheon  was  very  grand.  All  the  top  fashion  people 
were  there.  The  only  harm  the  whole  thing  did  me  was  that  a 
very  high  fashion  lady  told  someone  I  had  no  business  get- 


ting  up  and  making  speeches  because  I  wasn't  anybody  any- 

I  shrugged  that  off  and  made  a  second  set  of  models  for 
Lord  and  Taylor.  They  promoted  another  set  of  American 
designers,  Clare  Potter  and  Muriel  King. 

The  promotions  were  widely  publicized  as  well  as  adver- 
tised. A  flood  of  articles  on  American  Designers  came  out  in 
newspapers  and  magazines  all  over  the  U.  S.  A.  I  came  in  for 
my  share,  especially  since  my  name,  due  to  the  Paris  show- 
ing, was  already  known  somewhat. 

My  publicity  never  brought  many  individual  customers 
to  Hawes  Inc.  The  great  majority  of  the  customers  have  come 
one  from  another,  except  for  those  I  got  from  the  early  New 
Yorker  ads.  But  all  of  the  press  I  have  received,  and  par- 
ticularly the  Lord  and  Taylor  promotion,  has  been  exceed- 
ingly useful  in  bringing  manufacturers  to  my  door. 

Usually  I  think  these  manufacturers  have  had  very  little 
idea  of  my  capabilities.  Often  I  have  failed  at  the  jobs  I've 
undertaken  for  them.  They  assumed  naively  that,  since  I  re- 
ceived a  quantity  of  publicity,  I  must  understand  their  busi- 
ness and  be  good  at  it.  Where  they  wanted  to  hire  my  name 
for  its  press  value  and  didn't  really  want  me  to  do  anything, 
I  generally  succeeded. 

I  am  none  the  less  greatly  indebted  to  the  press.  I  think 
I  should  not  have  survived  the  depression  without  the  outside 
jobs  that  my  clippings  brought  me.  The  very  first  of  these 
jobs  entered  my  life  in  disguise. 

Early  in  1932  there  appeared  in  my  office  a  dark-haired 
young  woman  with  a  vivacious  face  who  insisted  on  talking 
to  me.  In  the  old  days,  on  one  floor  in  Fifty-sixth  Street,  al- 
most anybody  who  had  an  urge  could  lay  hand  on  me.  There 
was  one  small  office  off  the  showroom  through  which  one  had 


to  pass  to  get  to  the  elevator.  I  had  not  graduated  to  the  sec- 
retary stage. 

I  was  constantly  harassed  with  insurance  salesmen, 
hand-woven  fabric  ladies,  people  who  wanted  to  sell  me  real 
estate  or  corsets,  or  who  wanted  me  to  sell  them  clothes.  I 
used  to  hide  in  the  office  to  the  best  of  my  ability  until  the 
sales  force  of  one  found  out  what  any  unknown  person 

The  brunette  in  question,  as  I  heard  through  the  door, 
would  not  state  her  business.  She  would  see  Miss  Hawes.  I 
emerged  and  learned  that  her  husband  had  a  wholesale  bag 
business.  She'd  been  reading  about  me  in  the  papers  and 
thought  I  might  design  some  bags. 

I  allowed  as  how  I  guessed  I  could  if  anyone  wanted 
them.  I  think  I  can  design  anything  except  engines.  She  went 
away  saying  she'd  be  back  with  her  husband.  Surprisingly 
enough,  they  arrived  a  day  or  so  later. 

The  gentleman,  who  might  have  been  called  Mr.  Smith, 
talked  a  little  about  his  business.  He  said  that  the  Smith  Co. 
made  good  and  expensive  bags.  They  had  been  going  once  a 
year  to  Paris  for  a  long  time  and  buying  models.  They  were 
growing  sick  of  Paris  as  a  source.  The  bags  were  good  but 
all  their  competitors  had  the  same  models. 

Since  the  Smith  Co.  made  expensive  bags,  they  were  in 
a  bad  spot.  Other  bag  manufacturers  made  copies  of  the 
French  models  cheaper  than  they  know  how.  Anyway,  he 
assured  me,  Smith  Co.  was  an  old  firm  and  they  had  always 
made  fine  merchandise.  They  didn't  want  to  make  cheap 

The  firm  had  originally  been  his  father's  business  and 
made  very  fine  luggage.  The  depression  was  knocking  the 
bottom  out  of  the  expensive  luggage  business.  The  Smith  Co. 
had  begun  to  make  bags  as  a  side  line  at  first.  Now  they  were 


immersed  in  the  bag  business,  not  paying  much  attention  to 
the  luggage. 

I  nodded  sympathetically  to  all  he  said.  I  explained  that 
the  guts  of  my  business  was  the  fact  that  I  did  my  own  design- 
ing and  had  no  truck  with  French  models. 

Hesitatingly  he  stated  his  mission.  He  and  his  brother 
wondered  whether  they  would  dare  give  up  buying  French 
models  and  have  their  own  designs.  I  could  tell  from  his  tone 
that  Smith  and  Brother  Smith  had  argued  long  about  this 
grave  decision.  They  hadn't  yet  really  reached  a  conclusion. 

Mrs.  Smith  picked  the  right  girl  to  convince  them  when 
she  came  in  to  me.  I  launched  into  one  of  my  speeches  about 
designing  in  America,  how  it  was  all  nonsense  that  it  couldn't 
be  done;  how  it  was  obviously  not  profitable,  as  he  had 
proven,  to  use  French  designs  in  expensive  merchandise; 
how  there  must  be  dozens  of  people  who  could  design  bags 
in  America ;  how,  of  course,  I  could  do  it  if  they  wanted  me 

So  Brother  Smith  was  brought  to  talk  to  me.  He  was 
something  of  a  designer  himself,  younger  than  Plain  Smith, 
less  businesslike,  more  emotional.  Plain  Smith  had  told  me 
that  Brother  Smith  was  the  one  who  went  to  Paris  every  year 
for  models.  I  gathered  the  trip  was  a  pleasure  to  him.  When 
I  saw  him,  I  realized  it  was  a  pleasure  because  he  liked  get- 
ting away  from  the  bag  business,  not  because  he  liked  buy- 
ing for  it. 

The  business,  I  gathered,  was  not  so  hot.  They  thought 
it  might  possibly  be  connected  with  using  only  French  de- 
signs. I  didn't  know  anything  about  the  bag  business,  but  it 
seemed  rather  obvious  to  me  that  if  all  the  bag  manufac- 
turers were  busy  selling  the  same  bags,  they  couldn't  any  of 
them  be  operating  at  much  of  a  profit. 

We  had  a  good  many  conferences,  Plain  and  Brother 


Smith  talking  and  arguing,  with  me  as  mediator.  After 
enough  thought  to  have  reconstructed  eight  or  ten  bag  busi- 
nesses, they  finally  drew  a  long  breath  and  decided  to  risk 
everything  on  some  American  designed  bags. 

I  was  elected  to  do  them  a  "line."  In  the  wholesale  busi- 
ness, any  collection  of  anything  shown  at  one  time  is  known 
as  a  "line."  At  the  beginning  of  every  season,  you  "get  out 
the  new  line."  You  are  always  in  a  panic  because  the  French 
make  their  lines  to  show  in  August  and  you,  in  America,  have 
to  get  busy  in  June. 

However  brave  any  wholesaler  may  look  when  he  hires 
me  or  anybody  else  to  do  a  line  in  America,  he  trembles  in 
his  boots  half  the  day  for  fear  we  won't  do  what  the  French 
are  about  to  do.  He  trembles  because  almost  all  the  later 
fashion  reports  will  be  based  entirely  on  what  the  French 
have  put  out.  If  he  hasn't  done  more  or  less  the  same  thing, 
the  reporters  will  just  think  he  doesn't  know  his  business. 
The  buyer  will  not  recognize  the  designs  in  his  line  and  they 
may  not  dare  buy  them. 

I  set  about  doing  a  bag  line  with  the  help  of  an  appren- 
tice, Dorothy  Zabriskie.  She  turned  out  to  be  so  good,  I  hired 
her  afterward.  The  Smith  Co.  did  their  very  best  to  get  our 
ideas  from  sketches.  Finally  we  resorted  to  muslin  patterns 
which  was  somewhat  more  satisfactory. 

By  the  time  we  had  explained  all  to  Brother  Smith,  who 
took  care  of  the  designing  end,  and  he  had  re-explained  it  to 
the  man  who  actually  made  the  sample,  a  good  deal  of  the 
original  thought  was  gone.  After  a  couple  of  months,  we 
were  finally  allowed  to  talk  to  the  sample-maker  ourselves. 
Originally  the  Smith  Co.  said  we'd  only  upset  him. 

We  didn't  upset  him.  He  upset  us.  He  was  a  perfectly 
competent  craftsman  who  knew  how  to  make  bags.  We  did 
not  know  how  to  make  bags.  Therefore  he  despised  us.  He 


was  perfectly  right.  No  one  should  dare  to  design  anything 
he  can't  make  himself. 

The  craftsmen  in  the  wholesale  businesses  in  America 
have  acquired  a  complete  disrespect  for  a  certain  kind  of 
people  who  call  themselves  designers  and  are  only  sketchers. 

"Why  the  devil  should  this  woman  come  in  here  and  try 
to  tell  me  what  to  do?"  they  mutter  darkly  as  they  bend  over 
their  tools,  and  you  try  to  tell  them  that  you  want  a  fold — 
fold — in  the  bottom  of  the  bag. 

You  don't  know  how  to  put  the  fold  in  the  bottom  of  the 
bag.  Some  instinct  just  says  to  you  that  it  can  be  done.  They 
wish  you  to  hell  and  decide  that  you  are  wrong.  They  have 
never  seen  a  bag  with  a  fold  in  the  bottom.  They  look  up 
rather  cutely  and  say,  "I'm  sorry,  but  you  see,  you  just  can't 
put  a  fold  in  the  bottom  of  a  bag.  The  leather  won't  go  that 

After  three  hours,  you  go  away  beaten.  If  you  care 
enough,  you  get  some  leather  and  fold  it  just  to  prove  you're 
right,  but  there's  no  use  showing  it  to  the  bagmaker. 

Suddenly,  three  weeks  later,  you  find  a  new  bag  on  his 
table.  It  has  the  most  fabulously  horrible  gilt  top  ever  in- 
vented. The  leather  is  fake  sharkskin.  In  the  bottom,  there  is 
a  fold.  If  you  are  wise,  you  say  nothing.  A  few  weeks  after, 
you  find  the  bag  again,  in  the  showroom.  You  take  it  in  to 
the  bag-maker.  You  say,  "This  is  a  wonderful  bottom  to  this 
bag.  How  did  you  ever  think  of  such  a  thing?"  You  carefully 
omit  the  word  fold.  He  carefully  omits  the  word  fold.  You 
get  your  bag,  when  he  gets  around  to  it,  some  eight  weeks 
after  you  had  the  original  idea. 

He  is  right.  You  are  wrong.  You  have  no  business  telling 
him  how  to  make  a  bag.  You  don't  know  yourself.  You  are 
no  designer  at  all  but  just  a  bastard  stylist. 

In  any  case,  you  do  know  a  few  things  which  could  help 


the  firm.  They  can't  seem  to  find  anyone  else  who  knows  any- 
more. And  so,  you  persist  doggedly.  We  got  some  fairly  good 
bags  made  by  and  for  the  Smith  Co.  for  the  first  year.  We 
spent  seventy-five  percent  of  our  time  telling  them  to  make 
soft  bags.  Soft — not  stiff  like  cardboard,  see?  soft — SOFT — 

The  Smith  Co.  business  took  a  spurt  under  the  Hawes 
aegis.  The  bags  were  promoted,  widely  advertised  by  the 
stores  that  bought  them  because  they  had  a  story  to  tell: 
"Hawes  bags — that  bright  young  American  designer." 

I  was  at  first  scarcely  aware  of  anything  but  the  design- 
ing, although  I  was  repeatedly  told  that  the  Smiths  made  no 
money.  They  lost  less,  they  said.  One  day  they  came  in  to  ask 
me  if  they  could  set  up  an  out-of-town  factory  in  my  name. 

Why?  Because  they  wanted  to  run  a  non-union  shop  with 
cheaper  wages  and  to  do  it  they  must  go  to  Connecticut.  They 
must  take  another  name  or  they  would  be  caught,  the  shop 
in  New  York  where  the  bags  had  been  made  having  been 

My  manager  said  why  not,  I  wouldn't  be  liable  for  any 
debts.  It  could  all  be  arranged.  I  laughed.  My  courses  in 
Labor  Problems  at  Vassar  went  through  my  head.  "By  the 
time  I'm  through  with  this  business,"  I  said,  "I'll  know  every 
little  trick.  Go  ahead." 

I,  meanwhile,  was  being  prodded  into  further  action  by 
Lord  and  Taylor  and  the  depression.  It  was  not  satisfactory 
for  them  to  buy  dress  models  from  me  and  have  them  manu- 
factured by  someone  else.  They  had  to  pay  out  extra  money 
for  the  original  model. 

On  the  other  hand,  I  was  getting  very  little  more  for  an 
original  model  from  them  than  I  did  from  any  customer  for 
a  dress.  Lord  and  Taylor  told  me  I  should  work  directly 
with  a  dress  manufacturer  so  they  could  buy  stock. 


Stock  is  what  a  department  store  has  to  have,  not  one 
dress  in  one  color,  but  rows  of  that  dress,  pink,  blue,  brown, 
black.  Of  all  the  American  Designers  promoted  in  1933, 
only  Clare  Potter  worked  for  a  wholesaler  and  was  really  in 
a  position  to  qualify  for  selling  in  mass  production. 

I  was  becoming  intrigued  with  department  store  clothes. 
The  minute  I  saw  that  hundreds  of  women  could  have  Hawes 
clothes,  I  wanted  thousands  to  wear  them. 

This  was  the  beginning  of  Miss  Elizabeth  Hawes  running 
a  two-,  three-,  sometimes  four-ring  circus  for  the  next  few 
years.  These  are  the  years  which  made  me  appreciate  my 
ivory  tower,  yes,  but  much  more.  These  are  the  years  during 
which  I  discovered  that  what  a  lady  bought  and  paid  for 
when  she  purchased  a  $15.75  dress  was  possibly  $10  of 
dress  plus  $5.75  of  obstinate  stupidity  on  the  part  of  the 
dress  manufacturer. 

The  stupidities  of  the  French  Legend  were  as  apparent 
to  my  customers  as  to  me.  I  didn't  dream  of  the  flimsiness 
of  the  Great  American  Boast,  that  all  women  here  can  have 
beautiful  clothes  because  we  have  conquered  mass  produc- 

I  now  got  right  inside  Fashion's  bright  cellophane  wrap- 



WHEN  the  banks  closed  in  March  of  1933,  exactly  three 
days  after  I  had  shown  my  new  collection,  I  was  taken 
aback,  to  put  it  mildly. 

My  fitter,  who  was  Viennese,  fell  to  pieces  in  my  office 
and  said  that  in  every  country  she'd  ever  worked  in,  the  min- 


ute  she  saved  up  a  few  dollars,  the  banks  closed,  and  now 
here  it  was  in  America.  I  was  afraid  we  wouldn't  sell  a  dress 
and  the  entire  workroom  would  starve  to  death.  We  can- 
vassed them  and  found  that  ninety  percent  of  them  were  the 
sole  support  of  families  on  their  munificent  salaries  of  $25  a 
week.  I  had  never  given  a  wage  cut  since  I  started  in  1929. 

I  made  them  a  fantastic  proposition:  if  they'd  all  work 
for  whatever  they  had  to  have,  I'd  arrange  to  see  them 
through  until  the  following  fall  somehow,  including  their  bi- 
annual lay-off  in  the  summer.  This  meant  I  wanted  to  pay 
some  of  them  who  had  husbands  working  $15  a  week  and 
others  who  had  three  children  $25,  regardless  of  their  for- 
mer salaries.  I  figured  they'd  been  working  together  for  sev- 
eral years  and  would  cooperate  with  one  another. 

Of  course,  they  simply  didn't  know  what  I  was  talking 
about.  They  never  could  think  more  than  one  payroll  ahead 
even  in  good  times.  One  of  them,  a  spinster  who  earned  $35 
a  week  as  a  draper,  emphatically  told  me  that  she  was  in  the 
habit  of  giving  so  much  a  week  to  the  Catholic  church  and 
couldn't  get  on  with  less  than  her  present  wage ! 

A  couple  of  them  said  they'd  do  anything  I  suggested. 
The  rest  remained  stonily  silent.  So  I  just  slashed  their  wages 
from  a  base  of  $25  to  a  base  of  $18  and  the  Catholic  lady 
quit,  together  with  two  others  who  afterward  were  forced  to 
return.  It  was  a  horrid  time  for  all  of  us. 

I  would  have  saved  myself  a  lot  of  trouble  by  just  cut- 
ting the  wages  in  the  beginning  as  everyone  else  did.  My  staff 
of  two  models  and  an  assistant  salesgirl  came  around  and 
offered  to  work  for  $15  a  week,  whereat  we  all  had  a  good 
cry  and  got  to  work. 

I  notified  the  customers  I  would  make  them  clothes  for 
anything  they  had  to  spend  and,  when  the  season  ended,  I 


found  I  had  broken  even!  In  the  meantime,  since  we  were  not 
deluged  with  orders,  I  had  plenty  of  time  for  thought. 

I  thought,  in  general,  about  Mary  Lewis  and  how  she  had 
told  me  Ford  made  his  money  out  of  Fords,  not  Lincolns. 
And,  specifically,  I  thought  about  the  wholesale  business.  I 
wanted  to  talk  to  somebody  about  my  ideas,  and  Amos  Par- 
rish  had  been  one  of  my  best  advisors  in  the  past.  He,  I  felt, 
would  listen  sympathetically  to  what  I  had  in  mind  about  me 
and  the  wholesale  business. 

When  I  saw  him,  I  told  him  that  I  could  design  twice  as 
many  things  as  I  did,  anyway,  so  why  not  do  it  for  the  whole- 
sale. That  irritating  man  probably  produced  the  right  an- 
swer, disregarding  depressions,  and  knowing  me  a  little. 

He  said,  "If  you  can  design  twice  as  many  clothes,  why 
don't  you  throw  away  half  the  designs  before  you  make 

He  turned  me  over,  however,  to  a  gentleman  in  his  office 
named  Ray  Kraemer,  a  small,  sharp-featured  man  with 
glasses.  Mr.  Kraemer  said,  "I  wouldn't  take  Bergdorf  Good- 
man or  Hattie  Carnegie  for  a  gift.  The  way  to  make  money 
in  this  town  is  to  own  S.  Klein  and  sell  $3. 75s." 

He  was  entirely  right.  The  problem,  as  it  later  unfolded 
itself  to  me,  was:  Is  it  worth  it?  He  was  the  gentleman  who 
told  me  at  dinner  one  night  that  there  wasn't  any  occasion 
for  the  fabric  manufacturers  of  America  to  back  designers. 
"There  will  always  be  fools  like  you,"  he  said,  "who  will 
own  businesses  like  yours." 

I  hated  him  for  he  was  right  again.  Anyway,  the  French 
understand.  People  like  Mr.  Kraemer  make  me  quite  senti- 
mental over  Mr.  Rodier. 

At  that  very  instant,  I  owed  Mr.  Rodier  enough  money  so 
he  could  have  put  me  out  of  business  any  minute.  I  used  al- 
most exclusively  French  fabrics,  mostly  Rodier,  Bianchini, 


and  Ducharne.  These  gentlemen,  in  the  persons  of  their 
American  representatives,  kept  me  going  through  the  depres- 

Certainly  they  wanted  me  to  use  and  to  be  able  to  con- 
tinue to  use  their  fabrics,  and  certainly  I  paid  plenty  for 
them.  Equally  certainly,  due  to  the  exigencies  of  running  a 
shop  like  Hawes  Inc.  which  I  shall  further  unfold  in  a  later 
chapter,  had  it  not  been  for  the  credit  in  money,  and  advice 
and  encouragement  given  me,  notably  by  Mr.  Newberg  of 
Bianchini,  I  would  not  be  alive  to  tell  the  tale. 

Perhaps  I  might  better  have  spent  my  time  in  1933  com- 
muning with  the  French  than  with  American  Big  Business. 
But  somehow  or  other,  I  had  to  have  my  fling.  Also,  for  a 
brief  moment,  I  was  intrigued  with  the  idea  of  making  more 
than  a  subsistence  wage.  "Ford  makes  his.  .  .  ." 

I  finally  found  a  new  advisor  in  the  person  of  Louis 
Kirstein,  the  head  of  a  large  group  of  stores  including  Filene 
in  Boston  and  Bloomingdale  in  New  York.  He,  out  of  the 
bigness  of  his  heart,  told  a  man  in  his  office  to  find  a  whole- 
sale dress  manufacturer  with  whom  I  could  work. 

One  day  in  the  spring  of  '33 1  was  called  to  Mr.  Kirstein's 
office.  His  assistant  said,  "Well,  I've  found  someone  for  you. 
I  think  you  can  get  on  with  him.  He  is  really  a  fine  man.  He's 

I  was  slightly  taken  back.  Lo  and  behold,  with  the  pas- 
sage of  the  years  I  had  forgotten  Mr.  Weinstock  and  all  his 
and  my  dealings.  The  wholesale  clothing  manufacturer  had 
crept  back  into  my  life  via  the  stealing  of  my  leather  jacket 
and  I  had  accepted  him  as  a  matter  of  course.  That  was  the 
way  business  was  done.  Ordinarily  no  one  goes  so  far  as  to 
suggest  that  any  dress  manufacturer  is  either  honest  or  dis- 
honest. Actually  it  is  rather  taken  for  granted  that  everyone 
is  out  to  gyp  everyone  else  on  Seventh  Avenue. 


Seventh  Avenue  is  the  general  term  used  to  denote  the  en- 
tire wholesale  clothing  business  in  New  York.  In  Paris  they 
have  La  Couture.  Here  we  have  Seventh  Avenue. 

Seventh  Avenue  is  a  wide  street,  flanked  by  many  small 
skyscrapers.  The  blocks  from  Forty-second  Street  down  to 
Thirty-fourth  Street  are  given  over  to  clothing  all  American 
women.  The  street  is  jammed  not  only  with  vans  and  cars,  but 
with  many,  many  boys  who  push  little  trucks  endlessly  from 
building  to  building.  The  trucks  are  filled  with  bolts  of  mate- 
rial or  dresses  on  hangers. 

At  noon  time,  the  block  between  Broadway  and  Seventh 
Avenue  at  Forty-first  Street  is  entirely  given  over  to  hundreds 
and  hundreds  of  somberly  clothed  men  who  stand  there, 
smoking  and  talking.  These  are  the  men  who  cut  the  clothes. 
They  herd  there  every  day. 

When  the  working  day  is  over,  thousands  of  dark-haired 
Jews  from  Poland  and  Russia,  Lithuania  and  Germany,  pour 
from  their  sewing  machines  into  Seventh  Avenue.  They  are 
the  skilled  craftsmen  and  women  of  the  American  couture. 

Hour  after  patient  hour,  they  cut  and  sew  up  the  dresses, 
coats,  and  suits  which  clothe  the  great  American  woman- 
hood. Thousands  more  like  them,  and  also  of  good  old  Amer- 
ican Nordic  stock,  are  engaged  in  the  same  occupation  in 
small  towns  and  cities  outside  New  York. 

Out  of  town  they  are  sweated  and  exploited,  kicked  and 
underpaid.  They  hive  in  cellars  where  they  get  $9  a  week  for 
fifty-four  hours  of  sewing  up  your  $4.95. 

In  New  York,  they  are  organized,  that  hated  word.  They 
are  better  paid  and  work  thirty-five  hours  a  week.  They  are 
laid  off  many  weeks  in  the  year,  and  all  the  weeks  of  the  year 
their  work  is  speeded  up.  They  are  spit  upon  and  they  are 
known  to  the  outside  world  as  "dirty  Jews."  People  say 


they're  un-American.  Kick  'em  out.  Let  'em  go  back  where 
they  came  from. 

Their  bosses  call  them  kikes  and  say  to  hell  with  their 
rotten  unions.  What  right  have  they  got  trying  to  run  my 

But  every  day  the  skilled  craftspeople  of  this  great  Amer- 
ican couture  turn  up  on  Seventh  Avenue  just  the  same,  and 
sew  and  sew  and  sew  for  the  purpose  of  clothing  the  Amer- 
ican woman  beautifully. 

They  do  not  decide  how  small  the  seams  are  to  be,  how 
cheap  the  silk,  how  quickly  the  garment  is  to  be  finished. 
They  do  as  they  are  told. 

Out  of  their  midst  rise  many  of  the  Weinstocks,  the  Leo 
Levines,  and  the  Joe  Rosenthals  who  are  the  captains  of  the 
American  dress  industry.  They,  or  their  fathers,  came  to  the 
promised  land  and  managed  to  start  their  own  little  busi- 
nesses. If  they  learned  their  lessons  well,  the  little  businesses 
grew  into  big  ones.  Leo  turns  into  Leo  Levine. 

Now  Leo  Levine  has  money.  He  has  a  big  automobile  and 
he  goes  to  Paris.  He  plays  the  stock  market  or  buys  real  es- 
tate. He  becomes  an  American.  He  often  says  wonderful 
things  to  you,  in  his  new  language.  He  watches  the  dresses  go 
by,  his  dresses  on  his  mannequins  in  his  showroom.  He  nar- 
rows his  eyes,  takes  a  puff  on  his  cigar.  "Look  at  the  carriage 
of  that  dress,"  he  sighs  with  a  dreamy  look. 

Leo  Levine  was  trained  in  a  hard  school.  He  does  unto 
others  as  he  was  done  by.  Naturally  he  doesn't  treat  his  work- 
ers any  better  than  his  boss  treated  him.  He  was  taught  by 
his  boss  to  save  four  yards  of  material  on  every  hundred 
dresses  even  if  the  seams  did  split.  He  learns  quickly,  watch- 
ing Joe  Rosenthal,  how  to  sit  at  ease  in  Patou's  salon  and 
watch  Elizabeth  Hawes  take  her  little  notes  for  his  sketches. 

Joe  Rosenthal,  another  leader  on  Seventh  Avenue,  didn't 


rise  from  the  ranks.  His  father  saved  enough  to  send  him  to 
Columbia  and  set  him  up  in  business.  But  when  he  got  onto 
Seventh  Avenue,  he  found  it  was  Leo  Levine's  street  and  the 
Levine  psychology  which  dominated  there.  Joe  Rosenthal 
found  that  if  he  wanted  to  compete  with  Leo  Levine,  he  better 
cut  out  the  seams  and  try  to  get  a  better  price  on  the  material. 

Since  Leo  never  had  anything  to  start  with  and  was  edu- 
cated to  believe  in  getting  into  the  big  money  as  fast  as  pos- 
sible, by  any  of  the  few  means  at  his  disposal,  he  is  an  in- 
veterate gambler.  Most  of  the  money  he  makes  on  Seventh 
Avenue  is  lost  on  Wall  Street. 

He  runs  his  business  like  a  gambling  establishment  and 
exhibits  his  most  unforgivable  fault  in  a  world  devoted  to 
business  efficiency.  At  the  end  of  a  season,  when  things  are 
added  up,  if  Leo  has  made  money,  okay.  If  he  hasn't,  he 
shuts  up  that  shop  and  starts  another. 

Joe  Rosenthal  doesn't  run  his  business  in  any  such  man- 
ner. He  has  accountants  and  even  efficiency  experts.  He  fig- 
ures cost  correctly.  But  right  around  the  corner  is  Leo  Levine 
who  hoisted  himself  up  by  his  own  bootstrap  and  has  learned 
one  only  pays  for  what  one  can't  obtain  by  other  means.  Leo 
Levine  copies  all  Rosenthal's  best  sellers,  at  a  lower  price  of 

An  organization  is  formed,  at  the  instigation  of  Joe 
Rosenthal  et  al.,  and  Levine  and  Co.  are  taken  in.  It  is  an 
organization  to  prevent  copying.  The  ball  is  tossed  to  the  de- 
partment stores.  If  any  store  is  found  selling  a  copy  of  one 
of  Mr.  Rosenthal's — or  Mr.  Levine's — dresses,  all  the 
members  of  the  particular  manufacturers  organization  agree 
not  to  sell  that  store  any  more  dresses  at  all  until  such  a  time 
as  the  store  promises  to  be  good. 

Joe  Rosenthal  has  now  got  Leo  Levine  where  he  wants 
him.  He's  fixed  things  so  Leo  simply  can't  copy  Rosenthal's 


clothes.  A  cause  celebre  against  one  of  the  large  department 
stores  found  selling  a  copy  of  a  registered  dress  is  won  by  the 
organization.  Leo  Levine  makes  a  speech  celebrating  the  vic- 
tory of  Seventh  Avenue.  The  majority  of  the  manufacturers 
who  belong  to  the  organization  shake  hands  and  leave  by  the 
next  boat  for  Paris  where  they  all  obtain  as  many  sketches  as 
possible.  They  all  obtain  the  same  sketches,  and  return  home 
to  start  a  new  season,  competing  on  the  price  of  the  copies  of 
the  sketches  which  they  have  promised  not  to  steal  from  one 

The  clothing  business  is  the  second  largest  in  the  United 
States.  Some  day  it  may  well  be  run  like  the  United  States 
Steel,  which  it  surpasses  in  volume.  In  the  meantime,  there 
is  just  one  little  item  which  neither  Leo  Levine  nor  Jose 
Rosenthal  can  ever  figure  out.  It  happens  to  be  the  founda- 
tion upon  which  their  entire  business  is  based,  regardless 
of  how  it  may  be  run. 

It  is  a  thing  to  which  they  subscribe,  in  which  they  be- 
lieve. It  is  called  Fashion. 

Levine  and  Rosenthal  alike  are  completely  bamboozled 
by  Fashion.  They  never  know  what  kind  of  dress  to  make 
next.  They  never  know  whether  skirts  are  going  to  continue 
short  or  get  long  or  turn  into  trousers  overnight.  They  feed 
the  entire  super-structure  of  fashion  press  and  department 
stores,  but  they  have  never  been  able  to  find  out  what  to  feed 
it  when. 

The  manufacturers'  only  contact  with  the  public  is 
through  the  department  store  buyer.  Her  chief  contact  with 
the  public  is  through  her  salesgirls.  She  doesn't  hear  much 
about  individual  customers  from  them.  She  seldom  sees  cus- 
tomers herself. 

The  buyer  secretly  wishes  the  manufacturer  would 
tell  her  what  to  buy.  He  wishes  she'd  tell  him  what  to  make. 


Often  she  does.  They  both  rely  mostly  on  Paris  to  give  them 
the  tip  off,  Paris,  and  the  comparative  shopping  department. 

The  manufacturer  has  a  comparison  shopping  depart- 
ment which  goes  out  in  the  person  of  a  sketcher  and  brings 
him  news  of  what  the  other  manufacturers  are  making.  Most 
dress  manufacturers  get  on  with  no  designers  at  all.  They 
simply  look  around,  buy  some  sketches,  talk  things  over  with 
some  buyers,  discuss  the  whole  matter  with  the  head  cutter. 
The  head  cutter,  who  considers  himself  a  designer,  proceeds 
to  make  up  a  "line." 

He  never  finishes  making  up  a  line.  Day  in  and  day  out, 
he  makes  more  models.  As  soon  as  he  has  finished  the  seventy 
or  eighty  which  make  up  the  first  line  of  any  season,  he  be- 
gins to  "fill  in."  Since  the  manufacturer  himself  has  no  in- 
dividualized taste  but  relies  entirely  on  the  opinion  of  his 
customers,  he  throws  out  of  the  first  line  all  the  dresses  which 
don't  appeal  to  a  large  number  of  buyers. 

The  cutter  fills  in  with  other  dresses  which  are  in  turn 
thrown  out  and  replaced  by  more  models.  He  has  no  particu- 
lar reason  for  making  anything  he  puts  in.  But  he  never 
starts  a  dress  he  doesn't  finish.  He  runs  up  new  models  in  a 
couple  of  days.  When  they're  finished,  the  boss  and  the  sales 
force  look  them  over.  They  put  them  in  the  line  or  throw 
them  away.  The  waste  is  terrific. 

It  is  not  as  though  they  were  constantly  trying  out  really 
new  things.  All  the  filling  in  is  done  on  the  same  basic  pat- 
terns month  after  month.  It  is  the  proud  boast  of  some  whole- 
salers that  they  make  up  a  whole  line  with  only  three  dress 
patterns.  The  newness,  so  loudly  called  for,  is  new  trimming, 
new  collars  and  cuffs,  new  glass  buttons,  new  clips,  new 
flowers,  and  all  of  this,  not  too  new,  please. 

Nobody  ever  does  a  scientific  job  of  figuring  out  where 
the  public  taste  has  gotten,  whether  the  women  are  ready  to 


wear  high  waists  or  long  skirts  or  whatever.  They  hoot  at  you 
when  you  suggest  all  this  trying  out  is  absolutely  unneces- 
sary and  very  costly  besides.  To  them,  what  they  call  fashion 
is  a  mystery  which  they  will  never  understand.  Fashion  does 
manage  to  be  a  mystery  most  of  the  time,  but  style,  of  course, 
is  different. 

Fashion  is  a  mystery  because  it's  something  which  de- 
veloped with  no  relation  to  the  public  taste  or  need.  Some- 
times, if  it  is  highly  enough  promoted,  a  fashion  gets  by  for 
a  short  time.  Sometimes  a  fashion  turns  out  to  be  amusing, 
like  tying  a  handkerchief  around  your  head  instead  of  wear- 
ing a  hat.  That,  in  fact,  threatens  to  become  a  style.  It  is  so 
simple  and  practical. 

'  One  year  at  Hawes  Inc.  we  were  amused  to  embroider 
"Fes"  on  the  palm  of  a  woolen  glove  and  'Wo"  on  the  back 
of  its  mate.  It  was  silly  and  everyone  bought  the  gloves,  wore 
them  and  threw  them  away.  If  the  embroidery  could  have 
been  done  in  mass  production,  which  it  couldn't,  it  might 
have  been  a  fashion  for  a  very  short  time. 

Every  single  season  the  flower  manufacturers  put  on 
shows  and  send  out  news  that  certain  flowers  are  right  or 
chic  or  indispensable.  Sometimes  it  just  happens  that  flowers 
really  chime  in  with  the  type  of  dress  being  worn.  Some- 
times the  spring  is  so  wonderful  and  life  is  so  gay,  the  women 
all  feel  like  pinning  a  flower  on  their  coats.  Then  certain 
flowers  are  fashionable.  Sometimes  the  women  just  don't 
want  to  wear  flowers  and  so  the  flower  manufacturers  have  a 
bad  time  and  complain  that  one  can  never  tell  about  the 
public  taste. 

Sometimes  well-known  designers  in  Paris  put  out  dresses 
with  lots  of  sequins.  The  American  dress  manufacturers  all 
proceed  to  put  out  dresses  with  sequins,  lots  of  dresses  with 
lots  of  sequins.  The  stores  promote  them.  Sequins  are  said  to 


be  the  fashion.  The  dresses  sell  only  in  cheap  versions.  The 
manufacturers  say  you  can  never  tell  about  the  public  taste. 
The  manufacturers,  some  of  them,  anyway,  have  been  in 
business  for  decades.  They  don't  seem  to  realize  that  sequins 
are  relatively  expensive  in  France.  Here  we  can  almost  all 
remember  a  thousand  cheap,  tawdry  little  sequin  dresses, 
straight,  knee-length,  hanging  in  Broadway  shops. 

Here  we  know  that  sequins  are  cheap  and  if  they  get 
started  again,  there  will  be  an  indigestion  of  them.  Natur- 
ally, most  women  who  pay  a  good  price  for  an  evening  dress 
don't  want  sequins  here.  Aside  from  the  snob  element  in- 
volved, the  association  of  Theda  Bara  and  the  sequin  robe, 
it  is  just  too  easy  to  get  absolutely  sick  of  the  sight  of  a 

Even  if  nothing  were  involved  but  the  snob  element,  any 
intelligent  business  man  should  be  fully  aware  of  its  work- 
ings. Let  the  $4.95s  have  sequins,  Joe  Rosenthal.  Your  more 
expensive  clientele  are  not  unpredictable.  They  won't  want 

And  again  and  again,  why,  oh  why,  Joe  Rosenthal,  were 
you  so  surprised  when  skirts  got  long  and  waists  natural? 
For  three  long  years  it  had  been  coming.  It  was  a  style, 
Mr.  Rosenthal.  Style  is  never  unpredictable. 

But  Rosenthal  and  Levine  are  not  occupied  with  style. 
They  believe  that  everything  changes  twice  a  year  and  they 
want  it  to.  Otherwise  people  wouldn't  have  to  buy  so  many 
clothes.  Nor  are  the  manufacturers  occupied  with  quality 
because  it  wears  and  makes  future  buying  unnecessary.  They 
are  not  concerned  with  whether  clothes  are  useful  or  beau- 
tiful or  functional.  That,  apparently,  is  not  a  part  of  their 

The  obvious  reason  I  ultimately  caused  so  much  trouble 


for  N.  H.  Nibs  was  because  I  didn't  understand  when  I  took 
the  job  just  what  it  was  all  about.  Mr.  Nibs  was  the  dress 
manufacturer  whom  Mr.  Kirstein's  assistant  found  for  me. 



,   (S/iot  J^incoln* 

MR.  NIBS  was  a  second  cousin  of  Joe  Rosenthal.  He  was 
tall,  gray-haired,  black-eyed,  and  nervous.  He  was 

I  am  sure  when  Mr.  Nibs  first  went  into  the  wholesale 
business,  eighteen  years  before  I  met  him,  he  was  quite  able 


to  cope  with  it  all.  Fashion  hadn't  speeded  things  up  to  the 
point  where  one  had  to  at  least  pretend  that  things  changed 
every  week  or  so.  Mr.  Nibs  originally  had  a  stable  business 
in  older  women's  dresses. 

Fashion  overtook  him — fashion  and  bad  times.  One  of 
the  standard  jokes  of  the  wholesale  trade  goes  like  this:  You 
point  to  a  dress  at  an  opening  and  say,  "That's  a  good 
woman's  dress."  To  which  your  interlocutor  responds, 
"There  are  no  good  women  any  more." 

Certainly  the  number  of  women  who  wanted  Mr.  Nibs' 
good  women's  dresses  diminished.  The  depression  finally  set 
in  in  earnest.  Like  practically  all  the  manufacturers  who  sub- 
sequently crossed  my  path,  Mr.  Nibs  sought  to  counteract 
the  depression  by  trying  something  different. 

He  went  all  the  way  when  he  hired  and  publicized  an 
American  Designer.  I  am  sure  he  must  often  have  regretted 
the  whole  incident,  although  I  know  he  feels,  as  I  do,  that  if 
I  hadn't  been  trained  to  make  expensive  clothes  to  order  (and 
liked  it),  he  and  I  might  have  worked  out  beautifully  to- 
gether. He  was  stubborn  but  not  immovable,  and  he  was  a 
thoroughly  honest  man. 

I  hired  myself  out  to  him  the  end  of  May,  1933,  for  $100 
a  week  cash  and  a  commission  on  his  gross  business.  My  job 
was  to  do  all  the  designing  on  my  own  hours.  I  was  still,  of 
course,  running  Hawes  Inc.  uptown. 

N.  H.  Nibs  was  a  house  which  specialized  in  sportswear 
at  prices  ranging  from  $10.95  to  $39.50  wholesale.  You 
double  all  wholesale  prices,  approximately,  to  get  the  retail 

A  very  odd  thing  about  the  wholesale  business  is  that  all 
the  houses  specialize.  Most  of  them  have  never  had  a  de- 
signer in  any  real  sense  of  the  word,  and  it  is  probably  easier 
for  them  to  concentrate  on  one  kind  of  clothes.  For  a  de- 


signer,  it  is  insane.  The  minute  one  has  an  idea  for  sport 
clothes,  one  sees  the  rest  of  the  clothes  the  women  will  want. 

Since  most  wholesalers  are  not  used  to  working  with  real 
designers,  they  regard  it  as  their  right  and  duty  to  tell  whom- 
ever is  trying  to  fulfill  that  function  what  to  design.  They 
say,  "Make  me  up  six  little  satin  afternoon  dresses."  You 
should  instantly  have  six  ideas  for  satin.  You  are  not  sup- 
posed to  like  or  dislike  any  kind  of  material  or  any  kind  of 
cut.  You,  as  a  wholesale  designer,  are  supposed  to  turn  out 
automatically  three  or  four  new  designs  a  week,  fifty-two 
weeks  a  year,  in  whatever  material  anyone  wants  on  what- 
ever lines  anyone  chooses.  This  is  one  good  reason  why  few 
real  designers  have  been  able  to  work  on  Seventh  Avenue. 

And  besides  the  wholesale  designer  on  Seventh  Avenue 
is  supposed  to  design  twelve  months  of  the  year.  Inevitably 
she  runs  dry.  She  has  to  run  to  Paris  for  help,  or  she'll  get 
thrown  out.  The  wholesalers  continually  change  designers, 
taking  in  one  and  throwing  out  another. 

If  the  wholesale  dress  business  were  run  for  the  purpose 
of  creating  style,  each  designer  would  turn  out  her  hundred 
new  ideas  with  their  variations  every  year,  thoughtfully  and 
carefully.  She  would  have  time  to  see  the  public  for  which 
she  works,  maybe  even  talk  to  it. 

As  it  is,  the  cry  for  "something  new,"  something  new  to 
advertise,  something  new  to  show  the  buyers,  something  new 
to  catch  the  public  eye,  is  an  unceasing  din,  dulling  the 
senses,  stopping  the  imagination  of  almost  every  Seventh 
Avenue  designer. 

I  do  not  mean  to  suggest  that  there  are  no  really  creative 
designers  on  Seventh  Avenue.  There  are  a  few  who  own  and 
design  for  their  own  businesses.  Some  of  them  are  known  to 
the  public,  such  as  Clare  Potter,  who  is  a  partner  in  her  firm. 

In  general,  the  wholesale  dress  manufacturer  is  not  anx- 


ious  to  have  his  designer  become  known  for  the  very  simple 
reason  that  it  gives  the  designer  too  much  power.  If  she  is  a 
successful  designer,  she  is  married  into  or  taken  into  the  firm 
as  fast  as  possible  for  fear  she  may  leave,  lured  by  a  higher 

In  any  case,  whatever  her  status  in  any  firm  not  her  own, 
there  are  certainly  few  wholesale  designers  who  are  allowed 
to  work  out  their  designs  without  interference.  The  interfer- 
ence is  occasioned  by  the  boss's  fear  of  Fashion.  He  will  not 
believe  that  any  human  being  really  understands  it.  He  will 
believe,  in  his  heart  of  hearts  and  usually  quite  openly  and 
loudly,  that  the  French  make  it  and  only  they  can  know  what 
to  do  about  it  next.  Obviously  he  must  therefore  believe 
Parisian  designers  are  some  sort  of  goddesses. 

Of  late  years  it  has  become  the  fashion  among  wholesale 
dress  manufacturers  to  say  that  the  Paris  designers  aren't 
so  hot  after  all.  But,  as  the  manufacturers  say  it,  they  are 
either  hastily  examining  a  pile  of  French  sketches  or  catch- 
ing a  boat  for  the  land  of  God. 

In  the  beginning  of  my  career  at  Nibs,  my  boss  had  the 
proper  respect  for  me.  He  let  me  alone  to  do  what  I  liked.  My 
newspaper  clippings  had  put  the  fear  of  my  personal  God 
into  him.  In  fact,  everyone  in  the  place  kept  looking  at  me 
nervously  out  of  the  corner  of  their  eyes  for  months.  They 
expected  me  to  have  "temperament."  Maybe  I  would  have 
gotten  on  better  if  I'd  displayed  it. 

I  set  to  work  to  make  my  first  line  in  June  1933.  The 
gentleman  who  was  to  make  the  models  for  me  was  named 
Mr.  Meyer.  He  was  an  angel.  He  was  about  my  height,  only 
twice  my  width,  bald  and  shiny.  He  had  wonderful  big  scis- 
sors which  he  wielded  with  great  skill.  He  began  by  trying  his 
best  to  do  what  I  asked. 

He  found  I  knew  something  about  making  clothes  which 


helped  a  lot.  I  found  he  knew  how  to  make  clothes  just  one 
way  which  didn't  help  at  all.  He  made  all  skirts  tight,  and 
I  mean  tight.  He  made  all  waists  with  tucks  so  they  could  be 
"cut  for  large  sizes."  He  made  all  dresses  too  small  across 
the  back  and  set  in  all  sleeves  wrong  after  cutting  them  too 
small  in  the  armhole. 

He  thought  very  slowly,  and  accurately  according  to  his 
own  ideas.  If  you  told  him  to  do  something  he  either  didn't 
know  how  to  do  or  didn't  want  to  do,  he  said  yes  and  didn't 
do  it.  He  cut  the  original  models  directly  in  the  final  material 
without  one  inch  of  leeway  for  alteration  of  any  kind.  He 
had  them  sewed  up  by  his  very  expert  sample  makers  in  a 
few  hours. 

You'd  give  him  a  sketch  one  morning  and  when  you  came 
back  from  lunch  there  would  be  a  dress,  not  what  you  had  in 
mind,  but  a  dress.  The  neckline  would  be  too  low  and  too 
wide,  the  waist-line  would  be  straight  where  yours  was 
curved,  the  sleeve  would  be  tight  where  yours  was  to  have 
been  full,  the  skirt  would  have  just  enough  flare  to  look  as  if 
the  seams  hadn't  been  sewn  straight. 

And  there  would  be  Mr.  Meyer,  beaming  and  perspiring 
and  proud.  It  was  heartbreaking.  He'd  never  really  made  de- 
signs, just  more  and  more  models,  all  cut  from  one  basic  pat- 
tern. He  considered  himself  a  designer  and  he  was  very,  very 
touchy  on  the  subject.  If  he  hadn't  been  a  perfect  gentleman 
and  I  hadn't  been  so  profoundly  sure  he  was  trying  to  do  his 
best,  we  would  have  knocked  one  another  down  twice  a  day. 

As  it  was,  we  turned  out  a  line  of  dresses  and  suits  which 
wasn't  bad  at  all.  I  was  feeling  my  way  and  being  conserva- 
tive. Conservative  for  me  is  already  daring  for  Seventh 
Avenue.  I  made  color  combinations  of  red  and  purple  and 
blue  which  seemed  to  me  quite  banal  and  knocked  the  sales 
force  dead. 


The  clothes  sold.  They  sold  because  we  promoted  them. 
Wheee  .  .  .  what  my  Hawes  Inc.  manager  and  I  didn't  tell 
the  department  store  world  Hawes  had  done.  We  got  out  a 
big  folder  with  reprints  of  clippings.  It  was  a  wonderful  job. 
First  we  told  just  who  Hawes  was,  the  American  designer. 
Then  we  went  into  details  about  my  retail  shop  with  reprints 
of  Fontanne  and  Hepburn  and  socialites  wearing  my  clothes. 
We  related  how  Lord  and  Taylor  had  called  for  my  wares, 
how  I  had  done  this  and  that  small  job  for  wholesalers.  Fi- 
nally, we  told  them,  I  had  broken  down  and  here  oh  here 
were  Hawes  clothes  for  all  the  world  to  have.  Here,  at  N.  H. 
Nibs,  was  a  new  fall  line  of  Elizabeth  Hawes  originals  at 
prices  anyone  could  afford. 

We  completed  the  job  by  showing  the  stores  how  to  ad- 
vertise the  clothes,  reprinting  copies  of  my  ads,  and  by  tell- 
ing them  how  to  instruct  the  sales  force  to  sell  the  clothes. 

I  finished  up  the  first  line  the  end  of  June,  1933.  We  had 
redecorated  the  showroom  which  was  previously  one  of  the 
more  sordid  sights,  beige  walls,  beige  shades,  brown  wooden 
partitions  between  the  tables  where  the  buyers  had  sat  at 
brown  wooden  tables  on  brown  wooden  chairs  and  looked 
over  a  brown  rug  at  "women's  dresses." 

In  the  wholesale  business,  each  buyer,  or  group  of  buy- 
ers, is  separated  from  his  neighbor  by  some  sort  of  screen, 
curtain  or  partition.  This  is  so  he  can't  see  what  the  other 
buyer  is  buying,  supposedly.  Actually,  everyone  knows  what 
everyone  else  is  doing  because  the  salesmen  all  tell.  The  par- 
titions serve  the  useful  purpose  of  making  the  buyer  concen- 
trate on  the  clothes  instead  of  the  other  customers. 

I  desperately  called  in  Ted  Muller  who  does  all  my  dec- 
orating, pried  a  few  hundred  dollars  out  of  Mr.  Nibs.  Ted 
got  Venetian  blinds  which  looked  clean  and  white,  painted 
the  walls  yellow,  painted  the  entrance  hall  brown  and  put  a 


couple  of  white  leather  chairs  in  it  and  one  little  glass  topped 
table.  We  added  some  orangey  curtains  to  the  windows  and 
although  it  was  not  entirely  what  our  hearts  desired,  it  did 
look  as  if  there  might  possibly  be  some  dress  there  which 
hadn't  been  designed  eighteen  years  before. 

Ted  had  his  troubles  which  are  worth  mentioning  because 
they  are  so  perfectly  indicative  of  Seventh  Avenue  technique. 
Everything  which  was  finally  decided  upon,  a  chair,  a  table, 
a  blind,  a  piece  of  curtain  material,  had  to  be  gotten  cheaper 
through  some  friend  of  some  salesman  or  relative  of  N.  H. 

The  net  result  is  what  always  comes  of  that  method  of 
buying.  Everything  was  very  late  in  coming.  We  did  not 
quite  manage  to  finish  the  decorating  by  the  time  the  clothes 
were  to  be  shown.  And  each  individual  item  was  a  little 
wrong.  Days  were  spent  getting  a  certain  curtain  material 
for  a  nickel  a  yard  less  than  the  regular  wholesale  price.  All 
in  all,  time  being  no  object  in  hunting  for  a  cheaper  version, 
I  am  sure  an  easy  $15  was  saved  on  the  decorating  job,  at 
whatever  expense  of  wear  and  tear  on  nerves  and  ultimate 

When  it  was  all  finished,  the  sales  force  complained  that 
the  brown  walls  in  the  entrance  were  too  dark,  despite  the 
white  ceiling.  They  hadn't  previously  been  exposed  to  any- 
thing even  remotely  resembling  modern  decoration.  To  cheer 
them  up,  I  brought  down  a  scroll  which  Noguchi  had  given 
me,  a  long  white  sheet  with  a  most  lovely  pair  of  hands  done 
on  it  in  wash.  Across  the  hands,  completing  the  design,  was 
a  swirl  of  grey  paint. 

It  all  proved  most  devastating.  Several  weeks  passed  be- 
fore anyone  dared  ask  me  about  it.  One  day  when  I  was  try- 
ing to  make  friends  with  these  three  or  four  gentlemen  who 
were  to  have  the  pain  and  pleasure  of  selling  Hawes'  first 


wholesale  line,  one  of  them  broke  down,  "Miss  Hawes,  just 
exactly  why  is  that  smudge  on  those  hands?"  he  asked  con- 

"Why,  I  don't  know,"  I  said.  "It  completes  the  composi- 
tion, I  suppose." 

"What's  the  composition?"  he  bravely  asked. 

I  considered  all  the  courses  I  had  taken  at  Vassar  in 
French,  Dutch,  Italian  and  modern  painting.  I  looked  at 
his  rather  soft  face  with  its  quite  brutal  mouth.  "It's  ART," 
I  said. 

They  all  looked  completely  satisfied.  Art  and  fashion 
were  two  things  they  never  hoped  to  fathom.  Most  of  them 
know  that  style  is  out  of  date.  I  can't  imagine  where  Seventh 
Avenue  salesmen  come  from.  They  are  a  race  all  by  them- 
selves. Some  of  them  undoubtedly  rise  by  good  hard  work 
from  the  stockroom  or  errand  field.  They  get  kicked  around 
and  if  they  can  take  it  and  still  retain  an  atom  of  energy,  they 
may  get  to  be  salesmen. 

A  lot  of  them  are  related  to  the  boss.  Heavens.  If  Mr. 
Nibs  would  have  just  given  a  check  to  his  relatives  every 
month  instead  of  employing  them!  There  were  any  number 
of  them,  mostly  inefficient,  helping  to  run  things.  One  or  two 
of  them  sold  clothes. 

Selling  clothes  on  Seventh  Avenue  is  very  special.  It 
consists  in  making  friends  with  the  buyers.  That  is  the  super- 
stition, at  least,  on  which  the  selling  force  operates. 

I've  met  plenty  of  buyers,  worked  with  a  number.  They 
are  a  lonesome  lot.  They  come  into  Paris  from  New  York  or 
they  come  into  New  York  from  all  over  the  United  States. 
They  want  to  be  taken  to  dinner.  They  have  no  real  friends  in 
the  cities  they  must  travel  through  in  their  buying. 

They  want  to  go  to  the  theatre.  They  love  presents  like 
everyone  else.  But  they're  not,  by  and  large,  I  think,  open  to 


bribery.  Mine  is  not  by  a  long  shot,  the  opinion  which  moti- 
vates the  vast  amount  of  present-giving  and  entertaining  in 
which  Seventh  Avenue  salesmen  engage. 

One  year  when  I  went  freight-boating  to  Haiti,  there  was 
one  other  passenger,  a  dress  salesman  from  Seventh  Avenue. 
I  asked  him  what  he  was  doing  on  the  boat  and  he  explained 
to  me  that  it  was  between  seasons  and  he  was  going  to  buy 
presents  for  his  buyers,  perfume.  Perfume  enters  the  islands 
of  the  Caribbean  without  duty  and  costs  there  about  half 
what  it  does  in  New  York. 

He  bought  a  good  $300  of  perfume,  for  $150,  so  he 
saved  the  price  of  the  trip  and,  so  to  speak,  lived  three  weeks 
for  nothing  on  the  boat.  I  helped  him  take  some  in  on  my 
duty-free  hundred  dollars,  and  he  paid  no  customs. 

He  assured  me — from  my  experience  at  Nibs  I  am  sure 
it  is  true — that  he  gave  every  buyer  who  dealt  with  him  a 
Christmas  present  to  begin  with.  Then  he  must  entertain  her 
when  she  was  in  New  York.  He  said  he  hated  entertaining 
out-of-town  buyers  but  if  he  didn't  do  it,  they'd  buy  nothing 
from  him. 

I  think  this  may  be  partially  true  since  most  dress  manu- 
facturers compete  only  on  the  matter  of  price.  If  the  buyer 
can  get  what  she  wants  in  a  good  many  places,  she  may  hu- 
manly incline  toward  those  whose  salesmen  have  given  her 
the  most  in  entertainment  and  presents. 

I  suppose  the  reason  that  most  Seventh  Avenue  sales- 
men look  so  brutal  is  because  they're  tired  of  entertaining 
visiting  buyers.  I  expect  the  reason  they  know  nothing  about 
style  or  fashion  is  because  they  give  all  their  attention  to 
knowing  those  buyers  and  feeding  them  drinks. 

When  the  time  comes  to  sell  the  new  line,  all  they  do  is 
say,  "Mabel,  will  you  go  to  the  Casino  with  me  Friday?  I 
think  you  had  better  buy  that  black  dress.  Haldane's  buyer, 


whom  I  took  out  last  night,  bought  it  this  morning.  It  must 
be  good." 

Now  the  chances  are  that  Mabel  knows  perfectly  well 
whether  or  not  she  should  buy  that  black  dress.  And  the 
Haldane  buyer  would  have  bought  it  if  she  liked  it  whether 
the  salesman  had  taken  her  to  dinner  or  not. 

The  selling  methods  of  dress  salesmen  are  a  source  of 
marvel  not  only  to  a  simple  girl  like  myself  but  to  all  of 
those  many  experts  who  have  ever  studied  the  matter  of  sell- 
ing in  this  highly  specialized  age.  It  is  nothing  but  tradition 
which  governs  selling  on  Seventh  Avenue,  a  tradition  which 
belongs  to  the  dear  dead  past  when  buyers  were  another 
species.  Thousands  of  dollars  are  spent  on  the  entertaining 
and  present-giving  which  might  just  as  well  be  saved  instead 
of  being  passed  on  to  the  public  in  higher  prices. 

The  Nibs  sales  force  behaved  in  the  traditional  way,  and 
my  experiences  there  only  served  to  prove  the  lack  of  valid- 
ity in  their  method.  My  manager  and  myself  and  our  promo- 
tional ideas  got  plenty  of  buyers  into  Nibs  that  first  season 
who  had  never  set  foot  in  there  before.  We  gave  them  no 
presents  or  entertainment.  We  gave  their  advertising  depart- 
ments plenty  of  hoop-la  to  work  with.  We  showed  them  quite 
nice  clothes.  They  bought. 

Mr.  Nibs'  sales  went  up  a  couple  of  hundred  thousand 
dollars  over  the  season  before.  I  was  the  white-haired  girl. 
Everybody  loved  me. 

When  the  news  of  the  Paris  collections  came  over  in 
August,  they  even  reported  some  of  the  colors  I'd  used.  All 
my  ideas  had  been  correct,  even  the  fabrics.  I  hadn't  done  a 
thing  which  hadn't  been  shown  at  Hawes  Inc.  a  couple  of 
years  before.  They  thought  I  was  a  miracle  girl. 

But  it  didn't  last  long. 


•   Gx     O0cy  an   d/ vary  ex  o 

ONLY  a  quadruple  exposed  negative  could  give  the  faint- 
est idea  of  my  life  from  the  spring  of  1933  for  the  fol- 
lowing year.  Up  to  then  I  had  been  going  to  work  at  nine 
and  leaving  any  time  from  five  to  seven,  yes.  But,  by  com- 
parison, life  had  been  one  long  vacation. 


All  over-lapping,  each  being  discussed  while  the  other 
was  being  done,  came  jobs  and  ideas  and  Hawes  Inc.  in  a 
torrent  of  activity. 

The  clipping  books  of  ads  for  that  period  go  something 
like  this: 

From  Harper's  Bazaar,  March  1933,  "Said  Elizabeth 
Hawes  to  Elizabeth  Hawes  Lingees  are  the  answer  for  your 
design  for  living,"  an  ad  for  a  set  of  underwear  I  did  to 
promote  American  Enka  Yarn.  A  Best  and  Co.  ad  of  an 
evening  coat,  showing  the  material  of  Sidney  Blumenthal  as 
used  by  Hawes.  "Elizabeth  Hawes  cuts  into  cotton  for  Mar- 
shall Field  manufacturers"  in  Women's  Wear,  April  7, 1933, 
page  announcement  of  a  series  of  dresses  they  hired  me  to 
do  to  exploit  cheap  cotton.  "Elizabeth  Hawes  has  a  way  with 
a  brim,"  a  little  fling  into  the  world  of  hat  designing  for 
Lord  and  Taylor.  In  August  begin  the  dozens  of  ads  from  all 
over  the  United  States,  "We  Have  Clothes  by  Elizabeth 
Hawes,9'  my  first  designs  for  N.  H.  Nibs ;  interspersed  with 
"The  Emporium  (or  any  other  store  you  like)  Leads  in  im- 
portant new  accessory  fashions  for  fall" ;  "Elizabeth  Hawes 
antelope  bags,"  from  Smith  Co. ;  followed  by  "Appetizers," 
a  set  of  little  jackets  done  for  an  accessory  house;  "Elizabeth 
Hawes  square  bracelet,"  in  the  jewelry  field.  And,  in  the 
middle  of  it  all,  among  the  underclothes  and  the  bracelets,  the 
jaunts  to  N.  H.  Nibs  daily  and  the  discussions  about  little 
jackets,  in  September,  1933,  comes  a  page,  printed  on  Hawes 

We  have  moved  .  .  .  and  we  have  more  people  to  take 
care  of  you  .  .  .  more  room  to  take  care  of  you.  On  the 
first  floor,  at  last,  plenty  of  space  for  ordering  and  fitting 
hats  .  .  .  bags  of  our  own  design  .  .  .  some  ready-made 
sport  things.  On  the  second  floor,  a  fine  large  showroom 


etc.  ...  On  the  third  floor,  enough  and  large  enough  fitting 

Consider,  too,  our  budget  system.  You  figure  out  what  you 
have  that  is  still  good,  what  you  will  need  for  a  season,  how 
much  you  have  to  spend.  We  wangle  it  out,  clothes  hats  and 

We  are  open  from  ten  to  five  .  .  .  except  Saturdays  .  .  . 
Miss  Hawes  may  be  seen  by  appointment  .  .  .  We  cordially 
invite  you  to  come  and  see  our  fall  collection  .  .  .  we  enjoy 
showing  it  to  people  who  appreciate  beautiful  clothes,  whether 
they  buy  or  not. 

The  minute  I  signed  up  with  N.  H.  Nibs,  I  set  to  work 
to  enlarge  my  own  business.  It  was  the  low  point  of  the  de« 
pression,  but  it  seemed  to  me  that  if,  at  the  same  time  I  began 
to  make  cheap  clothes,  I  did  not  make  it  quite  clear  to  my 
private  public  that  I  was  going  to  continue  to  supply  their 
wants  in  a  better  and  bigger  way,  I  might  be  swallowed  by 
Seventh  Avenue. 

I  was  influenced  by  several  other  things.  We  had  out- 
grown our  quarters  on  56th  Street  so  that  we  gave  not  even 
a  modicum  of  comfort  to  the  customers  either  in  ordering, 
trying  on  or  fitting  the  clothes  and  hats. 

I  thought  I  could  cover  the  expense  of  moving  by  the 
money  I  would  receive  from  Nibs.  Hawes  Inc.  must  grow  up 
or  die.  One  can't  go  on  being  discovered  on  one  floor  forever. 
One  will  never  be  discovered  by  a  good  many  people  on  one 

The  latter  fact  is  one  of  the  most  interesting  things  about 
being  an  expensive  dressmaker  in  New  York.  You  must  be 
really  expensive.  I  will  outline  a  conversation  to  make  the 
point.  The  conversation  took  place  between  me  and  a  Mrs. 
X.  She  was  a  very  attractive  young  society  matron.  She  was 
not  rich  at  the  time.  I  talked  to  her  about  bringing  me  some 
customers  while  she  looked  at  the  clothes  one  day. 


"How  much  is  that  dress?"  she  kept  asking. 

"One  hundred  sixty-five  dollars,"  I  would  answer,  or 
$145,  or  $175,  as  the  case  might  be. 

"It's  funny,"  she  said.  "I  don't  think  I  have  any  friends 
who  pay  those  prices."  I  was  quite  bewildered. 

"You  know,"  she  continued  thoughtfully,  "all  my 
friends  either  go  to  Mary  Penn  and  pay  $79.50  or  they  go 
to  Hattie  Carnegie  and  don't  care  what  they  pay." 

After  a  good  deal  of  thought,  I  saw  that  what  she  said 
was  true.  Generally  speaking  there  were  a  large  number  of 
women  who  either  bought,  to  them,  inexpensive  ready-made 
clothes  or  were  used  to  paying  much  higher  prices  than  I 
charged.  They  were  not  interested  in  shopping  on  one  floor 
on  56th  Street  where  they  had  to  stand  in  line  for  fittings  and 
there  weren't  enough  salespeople  to  look  after  them  prop- 

I  saw  that,  although  I  had  a  monopoly  on  Hawes  designs 
and  could,  therefore,  be  sure  of  a  certain  amount  of  trade,  I 
must  begin  to  compete  in  services  with  the  "high-class"  spe- 
cialty shops  of  New  York  or  I  could  not  hope  to  grow. 

I  never  did  over  $60,000  a  year  on  56th  Street  and  this 
was  not  enough  to  support  me  to  making  the  kind  of  expen- 
sive collection  I  wanted  to  indulge  in.  I  wanted  to  be  able  to 
use  material  at  $20  a  yard  and  fur  and  anything  my  fancy 

On  the  one  hand,  at  Nibs,  I  was  fascinated  to  see  how 
cheaply  decent  clothes  could  be  made.  On  the  other  hand,  I 
wanted  the  opportunity  of  making  what  I  pleased,  regardless 
of  price.  What  the  latter  involved,  I  knew.  About  the  former, 
I  learned. 

We,  Jim  Hicks,  my  manager,  Ted  Muller,  the  architect, 
and  I,  set  out  to  find  all  the  space  and  air  any  customer  could 
want,  and  a  place  for  them  to  park  their  cars.  We  found  the 


house  on  67th  Street  in  late  July,  after  days  and  nights  of 
trailing  about  the  area  where  traffic  is  lighter  and  business 
is  permitted. 

The  house  was,  still  is,  five  stories  high,  about  twenty- 
five  feet  wide,  plain  gray  stone-fronted,  high-ceilinged  and 
big-windowed.  Inside  it  was  all  Louis  something  and  we  had 
about  six  weeks  to  tear  out  the  interior  decoration  and  sim- 

With  one  hand  I  worked  on  56th  Street,  making  up  the 
fall  collection,  with  another  hand,  I  filled-in  the  Nibs  line, 
and  with  my  third  hand  I  picked  out  colors  for  walls  and 
furniture  and  generally  inserted  myself  into  the  problems  of 
Ted  Muller  and  the  contractor.  My  fourth  hand  wrote  out 
ads  and  mailing  pieces  for  the  fall. 

It  was  fun,  exhausting,  devastating  fun.  We  tore  out 
moldings  and  partitions  to  the  despair  of  the  contractor, 
who  insisted  we  were  taking  everything  beautiful  out  of  the 
building.  It  was  a  pity  I  didn't  feel  like  living  in  the  time  of 
the  Louis'  in  old  France.  We  could  have  just  swept  out  the 
place  and  moved  in.  However,  it  had  to  have  three-colored 
walls  and  Venetian  blinds  and  no  mouldings  and  no  carpets 
and  be  clean  and  neat  and  1933. 

We  were  approaching  our  objective  with  top  speed  when, 
just  ten  days  before  what  was  to  be  a  gala  opening,  the 
painters  struck  all  over  town.  I  quite  well  recall  the  evening 
Ted  and  Jim  met  up  with  me  in  a  bar  near  56th  Street  to  tell 
me  the  bad  news. 

"The  place  will  definitely  not  be  finished  for  the  open- 
ing," they  said,  over  the  first  drink. 

"Shall  we  put  it  off?"  we  asked  over  the  second. 

"Hell  with  the  paint,"  we  said  over  the  third  Tom  Col- 
lins, "Let's  open  anyway." 

We  had  quite  a  fine  housewarming  one  night  in  Septem- 


ber  1933,  with  canvas  on  the  floor  and  white  plaster  walls. 
Downstairs,  the  decoration  consisted  of  a  line  of  dressmak- 
ers, dummies  with  signs.  "Contractors  are  unfair  to  union 

This  entrance  room  later,  when  the  strike  was  finished, 
was  painted  battleship  gray  and  white  and  is  now  the  acces- 
sory shop  where  we  sell  "Yes  and  No"  gloves,  false  broc- 
coli to  wear  in  your  buttonhole,  fuchsia  cotton  stockings,  soft 
bags,  belts,  scarfs  and  anything  else  which  strikes  our  fancy 
including  a  whistle  to  be  worn  on  the  watch  chain  of  your 
beau  when  he  is  not  using  it  to  call  a  taxi. 

The  night  of  the  housewarming,  my  official  fall  opening, 
the  widely  winding  stairs  went  up  to  a  brilliant  scene.  The 
present  polished  parquet  floor  was  neatly  draped  with  rum- 
pled canvas.  The  walls,  now  half -gray,  half -beige,  were  raw 
white  plaster  which  came  off  quite  easily  on  neat  black 
evening  clothes.  The  three  windows  on  the  front  of  the  house, 
bare  of  their  future  rust  curtains,  yawned  blackly  from  ceil- 
ing to  floor  and  out  into  the  night. 

Out  in  the  night,  beyond  the  middle  window,  was  the 
first  Hawes  flag,  waving  from  its  unpainted  pole,  battleship 
gray  with  my  scissors  and  H  tradesmark  in  white.  It  still 
waves  whenever  Hawes  Inc.  is  in  residence. 

In  place  of  my  blue  and  rust  furniture,  my  little  white 
leather  chairs  which  look  so  very  silly,  as  if  they  were  danc- 
ing, whenever  they  get  out  of  order  on  a  busy  afternoon, 
there  were  just  rows  and  rows  of  brown  folding  chairs.  The 
background,  all  in  all,  was  stark. 

Upstairs,  where  offices  and  fitting  rooms  would  be,  there 
was  a  bar  and  food.  And  wandering  on  up,  in  those  days  one 
came  to  a  big  room  in  front,  my  office,  another  in  the  rear 
with  a  terrace  outside  it,  my  bedroom.  Above  that,  two  little 
rooms  in  back  housed  our  houseman  and  my  maid.  The  whole 


front  of  the  fifth  floor  was  made  into  one  big  living  room 
where  I  relaxed  for  the  next  four  years.  Now  the  top  of  the 
house  is  all  workroom  and  I  am  blessed  with  one  tiny  ex- 
maid's  room  for  an  office. 

The  guests  on  the  night  of  the  housewarming,  came  pour- 
ing in  between  ten  and  ten-thirty,  stumbled  over  the  strike 
signs,  fell  on  the  canvas  floor  and  generally  established 
themselves,  drinks  in  hand,  for  the  show.  That  season  the 
clothes  were  all  named  for  songs,  everything  from  Rock-a- 
bye-Baby,  being  a  batiste  negligee,  to  the  kind  of  evening 
dress  called  Blue  Moon. 

We  always  start  with  sport  clothes  and  go  on  through  the 
day  and  evening  things.  Evening  shows  are  most  fun  because 
the  audience  are  my  friends  and  they  don't  hesitate  to  ex- 
press themselves  with  shouts  or  boos  as  the  fancy  takes  them. 

Usually  we  break  the  show  in  the  middle  with  some  sort 
of  oddity.  That  time  we  showed  six  or  eight  dresses  from 
1925,  long  waisted  and  short  skirted,  and  awful  enough  to 
make  you  cry  to  think  you  ever  were  seen  like  that.  Thank 
heaven  I  didn't  have  to  design  in  those  days. 

It  usually  takes  a  little  over  an  hour  for  six  girls  to  show 
about  eighty  different  models,  coats,  suits,  dresses,  furs, 
evening  clothes,  wraps,  negligees.  I  used  to  suffer  terribly 
at  my  openings  and  always  went  upstairs  and  had  a  quiet 
drink  with  the  butler  until  it  was  over.  Now  I  don't  mind  so 
much.  I  simply  don't  listen  to  what  anyone  says  about  the 
clothes  because  I  knew  they  all  have  to  say  it's  wonderful. 

A  day  or  two  after  an  opening  I  get  together  with  a  few 
people  who  know  me  well  enough  to  speak  their  minds  and 
am  told  off  for  what  is  bad  and  patted  on  the  back  for  the 
good  things.  By  the  time  you've  made  some  eighteen  collec- 
tions of  clothes,  you  get  a  fairly  good  critical  idea  about  any 
given  collection.  Anyway,  the  customers  tell  you  with  orders. 


Practically  all  the  fall  1933  business  was  done  with  no 
showroom  and  no  fitting  rooms.  It  took  six  weeks  from  the 
time  we  opened  the  place  before  the  paint  was  even  on  the 
walls.  The  customers  put  up  with  worse  inconveniences  than 
they'd  ever  had  at  56th  Street.  It  was  the  beginning  of  the 
spring  1934  season  before  we  were  actually  in  running 

I  was  a  full-fledged  eouturiere.  I  could  give  the  service 
of  a  specialty  shop  plus  that  reason  for  all  my  work,  my  own 
designs  and  nothing  else,  made  to  order  and  to  fit  and  you 
couldn't  buy  it  anywhere  else. 

And  so  came  the  establishment  of  policies  and  the  long 
long  fight  to  pay  for  it  all.  I  learned  exactly  why  expensive 
clothes  are  so  expensive,  and  why,  although  shops  like 
Hawes  have  a  reputation  for  being  thorough-going  thieves, 
it  is  not  necessarily  so. 

To  explain  that  I  paid  plenty  for  the  privilege  of  becom- 
ing a  eouturiere,  I  will  say  parenthetically  that  it  took  me 
three  years  to  get  even.  I  borrowed  and  put  in  as  capital 
$10,000  in  July  1933,  the  loan  of  a  kind  friend.  At  the  end 
of  the  first  year  on  67th  Street,  June  1934,  I  had  collected 
$12,000  from  N.  H.  Nibs  which  went  into  Hawes  Inc.  I 
showed  a  loss  on  the  books  of  $12,000  for  operations  at 
Hawes  Inc.  I  broke  even,  therefore,  on  the  books,  having  lost 
exactly  the  new  capital  investment  and  all  I  earned  on 
Seventh  Avenue. 

There  are  ways  of  thieving  from  one's  customers  in  the 
made-to-order  dress  business.  However,  in  general,  one  deals 
with  a  very  wary  public. 

It  is  an  old  adage  that  the  richer  people  are,  the  more 
economical  they  are.  People  who  are  used  to  having  a  great 
deal  of  money  to  spend  are  not  in  the  habit  of  throwing  it 
away.  They  may  buy  yachts,  mink  coats,  country  houses  and 


Rolls  Royces,  but  they  usually  only  pay  what  the  article  is 
worth  in  a  competitive  market.  They  shop  around  and  they 
know  the  value  of  what  they  buy. 

In  America  it  is  true  there  are  a  number  of  people  who 
have  only  recently  gotten  wealthy  enough  to  buy  the  luxuries 
of  life.  Of  those  who  can  pay,  it  is  they  who  get  cheated.  They 
have  an  idea  that  they  should  spend  carelessly,  not  ask  the 
price,  throw  their  money  around.  This  kind  of  customer  is 
cheated  by  some  dressmakers  and  specialty  shops,  as  she  is 
cheated  by  furriers,  servants,  jewelers,  and  everyone  who 
cares  to  try. 

This  is  the  kind  of  customer  who  does  not  know  a  good 
material  from  a  bad  one,  and  by  that  I  mean,  what  will  wear 
and  what  won't.  In  general,  I  might  add  for  the  benefit  of 
shops  which  are  not,  apparently,  concerned  with  the  wearing 
qualities  of  the  clothes  they  sell  at  any  price,  that  the  kind 
of  customer  who  can  be  cheated  often  does  not  care  at  all 
whether  her  dress  wears  or  not. 

This  leads  to  the  substitution  of  materials,  a  more  ex- 
pensive one  being  used  in  the  model  than  is  used  for  making 
up  the  order.  So,  the  dressmaker  may  save  a  few  dollars  a 
yard  here. 

Secondly,  the  customer  who  is  cheated  is  one  who  doesn't 
apparently  care  whether  or  not  her  clothes  fit.  Often  women 
who  spend  the  most  money  for  clothes  in  New  York,  as  I  have 
said,  buy  ready-made  things  at  prices  from  $125  to  $250, 
prices  for  which  clothes  can  be  and  are  made-to-order. 

This  baffled  me  when  I  first  came  from  Paris  to  New 
York.  Finally  I  realized  two  things.  One  of  them  is  that  a  lot 
of  women  in  America  are  just  too  busy  to  come  for  fittings. 
The  other  is  that  there  are  a  great  number  of  American 
women  who  don't  know  whether  their  clothes  fit  them  or  not 
even  when  the  dress  is  made  to  order. 


The  latter  point  used  to  harass  me  dreadfully  when  I 
started  my  business.  I  realized  that  it  was  a  matter  of  my 
own  pride  in  a  number  of  cases  whether  the  dress  which  we 
made  for  a  customer  fitted  or  not.  She  didn't  know.  I  have 
a  minimal  number  of  this  kind  of  customer.  Most  of  my  cus- 
tomers are  women  who  have  had  clothes  made  for  them  all 
their  lives,  however  young  they  may  be.  There  is  nothing 
much  we  could  put  over  on  them  either  in  the  matter  of  work- 
manship or  fitting  even  if  we  wanted  to. 

There  always  remains  the  opportunity  to  cheat  on  fit  and 
workmanship  when  a  specialty  shop  deals  with  customers 
who  are  not  experienced  in  buying  quality  in  either.  I  have 
not  yet  sold  expensive  ready-made  clothes,  but  I  suspect  that 
this  affords  the  biggest  opportunity  for  racketeering  in  the 
specialty  shop  field  if  you  are  not  in  business  for  your  health. 

Which  leads  us  right  into  the  matter  of  how  prices  are 
made  on  expensive  clothes  and  whether  or  not  the  customers 
care  what  they  pay.  The  base  for  all  pricing  is  the  prime  cost 
of  the  dress  plus  such  expenses  as  are  directly  connected  with 
the  making  of  the  dress.  That  is,  where  one  is  designing  and 
making  to  order,  the  labor  of  the  sewing  girls,  the  fitting,  the 
material  which  goes  into  the  dress,  plus  the  cost  of  workroom 
supervision  and  the  designing  cost. 

The  wages  of  finishers  are  not  high  per  girl,  $22.50  a 
35-hour  week  is  the  base ;  $25  is  tops.  Drapers  get  up  to  $45 
a  week.  The  average  is  about  80  cents  an  hour.  Fifty-five 
hours  of  draping,  and  sewing  makes  an  average  Hawes 
dress,  and  a  labor  cost  of  $44.  To  this  must  be  added  a  cut- 
ting and  fitting  charge  which  is  about  $16.45  per  dress,  mak- 
ing a  total  of  $60.45  for  direct  labor  charges. 

Add  the  cost  of  material  which  seldom  goes  under  $3 
a  yard,  although,  as  I  have  indicated  it  may  go  down  to  a 
dollar  if  your  customer  will  take  it.  On  the  other  hand,  it  goes 


up  to  $10  on  the  slightest  provocation,  and  not  infrequently 
up  to  $20.  Take  $5  per  yard  for  the  stuff  of  an  average  dress 
and  seven-and-a-half  yards  as  the  necessary  amount  if  the 
designer  is  Hawes  and  not  given  to  saving  anything.  $37.50 
for  material  plus  $60.45  for  labor  gives  $97.95  for  the 
actual  dollars  and  cents  directly  spent  for  one  given  dress. 

This  is  the  prime  cost,  to  which  must  be  added  about 
$16.71  for  production  overhead,  workroom  manager's  sal- 
ary, stockroom  costs,  muslin,  pins,  sewing  machines,  and  I 
would  say  $15  for  designing.  This  last  is  an  estimated  figure 
since  I  can  only  use  figures  from  my  own  business.  I  own  my 
business  and  therefore  the  salary  I  draw  from  it  pays  me  not 
only  for  designing  but  for  selling,  promoting,  managing,  and 
one  hundred  other  things  which  I  do.  If  we  employed  a  de- 
signer, she  would  undoubtedly  get  more  per  dress  than  I  do. 
At  any  rate,  the  prime  cost  of  $97.95  per  dress,  plus  design- 
ing and  production  overhead  gives  us  a  total  direct  cost  for 
a  dress  of  $129.66. 

To  this  must  then  be  added  the  indirect  overhead,  the 
space  which  is  paid  for  by  the  square  foot,  the  salespeople 
who  may  stand  idle  half  the  time,  waiting  for  the  arrival  of 
their  special  customers,  the  models  who  show  clothes  for  six 
hours  straight  one  day  and  read  books  half  the  days  of  the 
year,  the  light,  the  heat,  the  secretaries,  the  bookkeepers.  All 
of  these  necessary  adjuncts  to  an  expensive  clothing  shop  are 
idle  half  the  year.  But  they  cannot  be  put  on  ice.  They  must 
be  paid  whether  there  are  customers  or  not. 

The  indirect  overhead,  divided  and  assigned  to  each 
dress,  is  apt  to  be  a  little  less  than  one-third  of  the  selling 
price.  On  the  type  dress  I  am  using  as  an  example,  the  over- 
head charges  would  be  about  $59.61,  making  a  grand  total 
cost  to  Hawes  of  $189.27.  Our  selling  price  on  such  a  dress 
would  probably  be  $195. 


It  is  quite  easy  to  see  that,  where  a  material  costs  $20 
and  there  may  be  one  hundred  hours  of  labor  on  a  dress,  or, 
as  is  usually  the  case,  on  a  suit,  the  selling  price  gets  up  to 
$400  without  the  slightest  effort.  It  costs  plenty  to  carry  on 
a  craft  business,  an  individual,  special,  one-at-a-time  affair. 
In  a  world  becoming  attuned  to  mass  production,  it  sounds 
like  thievery  by  the  time  one  arrives  at  the  selling  price. 

As  I  have  indicated,  one  can  cheat  on  the  material  and 
the  workmanship.  One  can  also  cheat  up  to  a  certain  point 
on  the  final  selling  price.  It  is  the  rare  specialty  shop  where 
the  prices  are  absolutely  set. 

In  shops  where  there  is  not  a  set  price,  what  different 
women  pay  for  made-to-order  clothes  varies  enormously.  In 
one  shop,  for  instance,  the  saleswomen  are  given  the  lowest 
possible  figure  at  which  the  dress  may  be  sold.  It  is  then  the 
business  of  the  saleswoman  to  give  whatever  price  she  sees 
fit  to  her  customer.  She  will  get  a  larger  percentage  on  the 
sale  for  every  dollar  she  gets  over  the  low  price. 

I  discovered  all  this  by  hiring  salespeople  from  time  to 
time  from  other  shops.  One  of  them  came  to  me  very  gaily 
one  day  and  said,  "I  just  sold  the  blue  satin  dress  for  $325!" 

"But,  it's  $275,"  said  I. 

"Mrs.  Y  bought  all  her  clothes  from  me  when  I  was  at 
Zim's,"  she  said.  "She's  always  paid  me  that  for  clothes." 

I  explained  that  all  Hawes  clothes  were  marked  in  plain 
figures  and  that  was  the  price  and  nobody  could  do  anything 
about  it.  I  developed  such  a  definite  policy  in  order  to  cut 
out  the  hours  of  dickering  which  usually  go  with  selling  ex- 
pensive clothes  to  begin  with.  The  hours  it  wastes  cost  enough 
to  cut  the  prices  at  the  outset. 

What  is  more,  it  has  always  been  a  mystery  to  me  why 
customers  put  up  with  the  game  of  indefinite  prices.  Most  of 
them  don't  know  it  exists  to  be  sure,  but  some  of  them  do.  I've 


discussed  the  price-switching  policy  of  certain  shops  with 
friends  of  mine  who  know  perfectly  well  it  goes  on.  They 
just  seem  to  think  that  they  always  get  a  low  price. 

Even  where  a  specialty  shop  sells  expensive  ready-made 
clothes,  prices  are  subject  to  change  under  pressure.  Often 
one's  saleswoman  seems  to  be  able  to  cut  off  ten  or  fifteen 
dollars  on  a  couple  of  $79.50  dresses. 

This  is  partly  because,  in  pricing  expensive  ready-made 
clothes,  the  specialty  shop  takes  a  good  walloping  mark-up 
to  cover  future  marking-down  on  dresses  which  don't  sell.  It 
is  also  because  some  specialty  shops  just  deliberately  bank 
on  their  customers  not  finding  out  that  the  little  navy  blue 
print  exists  in  a  more  crowded  place  for  $39.50  while  they 
are  selling  it  at  $49.50  or  more. 

A  favorite  trick  of  the  specialty  shop  is  very  special  sales. 
At  the  end  of  the  season,  the  ready-made  shop  is  always  stuck 
with  a  certain  amount  of  unsold  stock  which  must  be  marked- 
down  and  cleared  out.  Here  are  bargains.  To  the  bargains 
are  often  added  cheap  dresses  which  are  bought  for  the  sale. 
These  are  passed  off  on  the  thoughtless  public  as  mark- 
downs.  In  reality  they  are  fully  marked-up  to  meet  the  real 
mark-downs  in  price. 

My  manager  has  taken  issue  with  me  on  the  matter  of 
my  trying  to  explain  how  prices  are  made.  He  says  the  public 
will  never  understand.  But  I  have  a  method  in  my  madness. 
Not  only  do  I  believe  that  women  who  buy  clothes  made  to 
order  are  seldom  cheated,  but  I  also  feel  that  they  have  every 
right  to  understand  why  their  clothes  cost  what  they  do.  I 
wish  that  women  who  buy  expensive  ready-made  clothes 
would  realize  that  they  would  get  far  more  for  their  money 
if  they  bought  clothes  made  to  order. 

My  manager  has  prepared  a  chart  which  shows  in  figures 
what  I  have  said  in  words.  We  have  given  the  history  of  an 


average  Hawes  dress  on  the  left  side.  On  the  right  side,  we 
show  the  incomplete  but  authentic  history  of  a  ready-made 
dress  which  retails  for  the  same  price.  (See  page  239.) 

I  cannot  quote  the  name  of  the  manufacturer  whose  fig- 
ures are  used  since  he  finds  the  comparison  to  Hawes  figures 
somewhat  odious.  Anyone  who  has  any  reason  for  question- 
ing the  ready-to-wear  figures  may  write  me  a  personal  letter 
and  receive  adequate  reassurance  as  to  their  authenticity. 
The  figures  on  retailers'  gross  profit  are  from  the  National 
Retail  Dry  Goods  Association. 

Since  we  were  unable  to  obtain  authentic  figures  on  the 
exact  mark-up  and  selling  expenses  of  a  specialty  shop  sell- 
ing $195  dresses,  we  thought  better  to  carry  our  comparison 
only  through  the  prime  gross  profit. 

The  chart  makes  one  point  of  fundamental  importance 
to  any  woman  who  buys  expensive  clothes,  Hawes  figures 
being  typical  of  all  custom-made  shops.  The  actual  labor  and 
material  which  goes  into  our  $195  made-to-order  dress  is 
$97.95.  The  actual  labor  and  material  which  go  into  a 
$195  ready-made  dress,  sold  by  a  manufacturer  to  the  re- 
tailer who  resells  it  to  the  customer,  is  $77.29. 

Even  the  gross  profit  of  Hawes  Inc.  is  slightly  under  that 
of  the  retail  ready-made  store.  The  services  which  the  aver- 
age made-to-order  shop  gives  are  usually  greater  than  those 
given  by  the  ready-made  specialty  shop.  In  addition  to  these 
simple  facts  of  life,  the  woman  who  is  fortunate  enough  to 
find  a  designer  from  whom  she  can  buy  directly  assures  her- 
self of  the  individuality  of  her  costume.  When  she  buys 
ready-made  clothes,  she  is  seldom  protected.  When  she  buys 
made-to-order  clothes  from  a  shop  which  sells  French  de- 
signs, she  is  almost  certain  to  meet  herself  a  dozen  times  a 

I  do  not  think  that  any  expensive  dressmakers  overcharge 


very  much.  Making-to-order  is  a  hazardous  business,  full  of 
pitfalls,  extra  fittings,  people  changing  their  minds  and  what- 
not. I  am  in  full  agreement  with  Miss  Mary  Lewis'  principle 
that  people  make  all  their  money  on  Fords.  The  dressmaker 
is  pretty  well  held  to  a  price  by  what  the  market  will  bear — 
and  the  market  of  rich  women  who  spend  real  money  for 
clothes  will  bear  just  about  what  those  clothes  cost  to  make 
and  sell. 






Retail  Selling  Price  $195.00 
Prime  Cost    (material  and 

labor)  97.95 

Prime  Gross  Profit  $97.05 
Designing  &  Production 

Overhead  31.71 

Gross  Profit  $65.34 

Selling  &  General  Expenses  59.61 

Operating  Profit  $5.73 

to  Retail 






*  Retailers'  Gross  Profit 
Manufacturers'  Prime 
Gross  Profit 

Prime  Gross  Profit 





to  Retail 



$195.00        100.00% 

77.29          39.64% 

$117.71  *      60.36% 

The  most  important  conclusion  to  be  drawn  from  the  fig- 
ures which  I  have  given  here  is  that  any  woman,  whatever 
her  income,  who  can  scrape  together  enough  to  buy  her 
clothes  made-to-order  receives  more  in  quality  of  material 
and  workmanship  than  the  woman  who  buys  ready-made 


clothes.  It  is  perfectly  obvious  that  both  the  manufacturer 
and  the  retailer  take  a  profit  and  pay  certain  overhead  ex- 
penses from  the  ultimate  selling  price  of  the  ready-made 
dress.  Therefore  the  selling  price  of  the  ready-made  dress 
will  be  relatively  higher  to  the  consumer  than  the  selling 
price  of  a  dress  which  is  made  and  sold  by  the  same  firm. 

I  wanted  to  insert  a  chart  for  the  benefit  of  the  women 
who  can  neither  buy  custom-made  clothes  from  a  couturiere 
or  expensive  clothes  from  a  ready-made  or  made-to-order 
specialty  shop.  We  were  unable  to  get  accurate  figures.  On 
the  basis  of  general  store  figures  for  department  stores  which 
sell  dresses  at  $15.75  to  $29.50,  plus  figures  which  we  could 
obtain  from  manufacturers  who  make  those  clothes,  it  ap- 
pears that  the  $29.50  dress  contains  more  labor  and  material 
in  proportion  to  its  retail  price  than  the  ready-made  dress 
which  sells  for  $195.  However,  the  $29.50  dress  contains 
less  labor  and  material,  in  relation  to  its  retail  price,  than  the 
Hawes  dress. 

The  cheap  wholesaler  gets  his  profits  by  selling  a  very 
large  volume,  multiplying  his  50-cent  profit  over  and  over 
again.  The  specialty  shop  profits  by  its  large  mark-up  where 
it  is  run  well  and  doesn't  have  to  do  too  much  marking-down. 
The  couturiere  profits  chiefly  in  the  satisfaction  of  being  able 
to  eat  while  she  has  the  pleasure  of  dressing  stylish  ladies  in 
beautiful  clothes. 

I  do  not  mean  to  suggest  that  I,  Elizabeth  Hawes,  can 
never  make  a  great  deal  of  money  some  year  in  my  business. 
When  times  are  prosperous  and  women  spending  freely,  they 
triple  their  orders  and  the  overhead  does  not  go  up  very 
much.  But  I  had  better  save  what  I  make  that  year,  because 
come  a  bad  season  and  orders  are  cut  while  the  overhead 
goes  on  just  the  same. 

Oh,  I  fully  understand  why  Mr.  Kraemer  wouldn't  take 


a  couturiere  for  a  gift.  About  specialty  shops  which  sell 
ready-made,  I  think  he  is  partially  mistaken.  I  once  saw  a  big 
New  York  specialty  shop's  statement  for  1929.  The  owner 
did  made-to-order  and  ready-made  retail,  and  also  had  a 
wholesale  business. 

To  begin  with,  she  had  crossed  off  something  like  $100,- 
000  in  bad  debts  as  a  total  loss.  But  she  showed  a  good  deal 
more  than  that  in  net  profit.  Most  of  it  later  evaporated  in  the 
stock  market,  but  that  wasn't  the  fault  of  the  clothing  busi- 

Such  has  Hot  yet  been  my  fate,  either  the  beginning  or 
the  end  of  it.  I  set  up  certain  policies,  but  all  to  do  with  de- 
signing and  dressmaking,  that  treacherous  business.  The 
policies  included  selling  as  I  outlined  it  in  the  beginning  of 
Hawes-Harden,  as  far  as  I  was  able  to  get  good  salespeople. 

One  of  our  rules  is,  "Always  be  polite  to  customers." 
Sounds  silly?  It  is  not  at  all  a  rule  of  most  expensive  shops. 
Indeed,  a  young  lady  from  a  competitor's  shop  said  to  me 
lately,  "Oh,  we  are  always  rude  to  our  customers."  I  didn't 
hire  her. 

Sometimes  we  just  have  to  tell  people  we  don't  have  what 
they  want.  That  passes  for  being  rude  when  they  don't  real- 
ize that  I  paid  $22,000  one  year  for  the  privilege  of  getting 
to  be  a  couturiere  in  New  York.  I  reserve  the  right  to  refuse 
to  put  a  diamond  button  on  a  dress  one  season  and  stick 
diamond  buttons  all  over  a  dress  the  next  season  if  I  want  to. 

Even  now  people  come  in  and  express  surprise  that  there 
are  no  French  models  and  seem  rather  insulted  about  it.  They 
can  get  them  any  place,  we  say. 

"Haven't  you  got  a  single  puffed  sleeve?"  They'll  say 
one  season. 

"They're  all  over  the  place,"  we  say. 


"Haven't  you  got  any  sharkskin?"  they  say. 

"We  don't  use  artificial  silk,"  we  say. 

"I  don't  want  to  wear  my  dresses  short,"  they  say. 

"Fine,"  we  respond,  "We'll  make  you  some  long  ones." 

"Take  all  the  fullness  out  of  this  skirt,"  they  say. 

"Ok,"  we  say,  "but  you'll  feel  awfully  silly  in  it  next 

"What  do  I  care  about  next  year?"  they  answer. 

"Any  dress  which  isn't  in  style  for  at  least  three  years 
isn't  any  good  to  begin  with,"  we  say. 

"I  have  all  the  clothes  you've  made  me  for  the  last  three 
years,"  they  say.  "I  don't  need  any  this  season." 

"Wonderful,"  we  say,  "That's  the  biggest  compliment 
we  could  have." 

"I  want  the  black  dress  that  Mrs.  Young  bought,"  they 

Then  we  have  to  call  up  Mrs.  Young  and  see  if  she  minds. 
If  she  minds,  we  lose  the  other  sale.  That's  just  one  of  my  per- 
sonal idiocyncracies. 

Soon  when  they  ask  for  what  we  haven't  got,  we'll  be 
able  to  say,  "That's  the  kind  of  clothes  that  Mark  makes. 
Why  don't  you  go  there?"  Soon,  depressions  permitting, 
there  will  be  many  couturiers  in  New  York,  designing  their 
versions  of  style,  each  making  clothes  for  his  group  of 

Muriel  King  makes  her  kind  of  clothes.  Valentina  makes 
her  kind  of  clothes.  Hawes  makes  her  kind  of  clothes.  There'll 
be  an  American  couture  one  day,  for  the  made-to-order  lady. 

In  case  anyone  should  be  under  any  illusions  at  this  point 
concerning  what  kind  of  clothes  I  think  the  couture  of  any 
country  should  furnish  its  clients,  I  print  below  a  letter  which 
Patricia  Collinge  wrote  me  about  a  dress. 


Dear  Liz : 

About  four  years  ago  I  went  into  your  establishment  to  buy 
a  hat.  That's  all  I  wanted  and  if  I  had  minded  my  own  business, 
that's  all  I  would  have  got.  But  I  had  to  go  snooping  and  what 
happened?  Blue  Mazurka,  that's  what  happened.  It  was  the 
loveliest  dress  I  ever  saw  in  my  life  and  it  still  is,  Elizabeth, 
and  that  is  what  seems  to  be  the  trouble.  Because  after  all,  that 
was  four  years  ago,  and  I  ought  to  be  through  with  it  by  now, 
oughtn't  I?  But  it  hangs  together,  darling.  It  definitely  stays 
put,  and  it's  wearing  me  down.  It's  wearing  me  and  I'm  wearing 
it,  and  there  you  are.  And  don't  give  me  any  back  talk  about 
giving  it  away  because  you  just  don't  know.  You  see,  my  hus- 
band likes  it.  So  I  needn't  go  on  with  that.  I  like  it,  too.  But 
not  all  the  time. 

The  first  two  years  were  fine.  I  loved  the  dress.  I  used  to  think 
up  places  to  go  where  I  wasn't  even  invited  just  so  I  could 
wear  it.  And  the  third  year  wasn't  so  bad,  though  the  reason 
I  was  late  for  so  many  dinner  parties,  if  anyone  cares,  was  be- 
cause Jim  would  catch  me  in  some  little  number  I  had  bought 
for  relief  and  I  would  have  to  take  it  off  at  the  last  moment  and 
put  on  Blue  Mazurka.  He  said  I  looked  right  in  it.  And  I  felt 
right  in  it,  too.  A  little  nauseated  maybe,  but  right.  And  then 
I  had  my  tonsils  out,  and  that  gave  me  a  rest. 

But  the  fourth  year  got  me.  It  wasn't  that  I  didn't  try.  I  would 
buy  something  else  and  put  it  on  and  Jim  would  say,  "Aren't 
you  going  to  wear  Blue  Mazurka"  and  I  would  scream.  Then 
it  got  so  I  couldn't  buy  anything  else.  I  would  go  into  simple, 
defenseless  shops  and  try  on  dress  after  dress  and  Blue  Mazurka 
would  materialize  in  the  mirror  and  I  would  say  thank  you  very 
much  but  I  have  a  dress  and  walk  out.  Then  I  thought  of  setting 
fire  to  Blue  Mazurka,  and  then  I  would  think  of  what  Jim  would 
say  and  then  I  would  think  of  setting  fire  to  Jim.  Then  I  tried 
not  wearing  evening  dress  at  all  but  that  only  got  me  pointed 
at,  and  then  I  tried  staying  home,  but  I  would  find  myself  in 
the  closet  staring  at  Blue  Mazurka  and  muttering,  and  I  knew 
no  good  would  come  of  that. 

Then  I  tried  going  to  Europe  and  leaving  Blue  Mazurka  be- 
hind, but  at  the  last  minute  Jim  walked  in  and  looked  in  my 


closet  and  said,  "You're  not  going  without  that  are  you?" 
So  I  took  it  to  Europe. 

And  now  I'm  back  and  so  is  Blue  Mazurka,  and  even  the  sea 
fogs  haven't  hurt  it.  Just  freshened  it  up,  really.  It's  as  bright 
as  a  dollar,  and  I  can't  stand  it.  I'm  not  the  woman  I  was,  and 
four  years  is  enough. 

So  will  you  do  something  for  me?  Will  you  take  it  back 
and  keep  it  somewhere  and  will  you  look  at  it  sometimes  and 
think  of  me  and  see  if  you  can't  do  something  about  making 
clothes  that  won't  wear  quite  so  passionately  and  will  go  just 
a  little  out  of  style.  Because  there  can  be  reason  in  everything 
and  even  the  War  lasted  only  four  years. 

But  at  least  don't  make  any  more  clothes  like  Blue  Mazurka, 
and  if  you  do,  don't  let  me  buy  them.  Because  I  know  what's 
going  to  happen ;  I'll  be  coming  back  for  more.  Because  don't 
misunderstand,  I  like  them.  I  like  them  very,  very  much.  Hawes 
clothes,  forever  in  fact,  and  believe  me,  Elizabeth,  forever  is 


Miss  Collinge  was  only  on  her  second  year  of  the  Blue 
Mazurka  when  Mr.  Nibs  helped  me  to  purchase  my  ivory 
tower.  While  he  was  doing  that,  he  was  teaching  me  a  lot  of 
things  about  the  fate  of  the  ready-made  lady. 


WHILE  we  were  moving  into,  decorating,  policy-fixing 
up  on  67th  Street,  my  inexpensive  clothes  were  busy 
going  out  all  over  the  U.S.A.  from  N.  H.  Nibs. 

I  cared  about  those  clothes.  I  cared  so  much  that  I  got 
Lord  and  Taylor  to  let  me  write  my  own  ad  when  they  first 


showed  them.  It  appeared  on  a  full  page  of  a  New  York 
paper,  the  end  of  August  1933.  It  was  surrounded  by 
sketches  of  Hawes  clothes  for  $15.75  and  $29.50.  I  was 
proud  of  the  clothes.  My  copy  went  like  this: 

"Skol  .  .  .  This  is  a  respectful  dedication  of  my  first  real 
collection  of  ready-made  clothes  to  a  number  of  delightful 
people  who  have  never  been  able  to  afford  my  custom-made 
prices . . .  but  have  kept  on  wishing  they  could.  I  finally  routed 
myself  out  of  67th  Street  for  a  spell  .  .  .  and  over  to  Seventh 
Ave.  to  see  what  could  be  done  with  all  those  machines.  I  had 
a  couple  of  knits  run  up  for  sweaters,  invented  a  wooly  silk, 
twisted  up  a  skein  of  yarn  .  .  .  and  prayed.  And  I  say,  it's 
a  miracle  how  clothes  can  be  sewed  up  (and  not  in  sweat 
shops)  out  of  materials  which  please  even  my  spoiled  tastes 
(I'm  used  to  paying  $10  a  yard)  .  .  .  and  sell  for  $22.50  (up 
and  down)  .  .  .  and  be  really  good  clothes.  These  clothes  are 
not  intended  for  the  whole  female  population.  They're  for 
those  special  people  who  wail  aloud  in  a  world  of  diamond 
buttons  for  a  good  solid  brass  shoe  hook  .  .  .  who  prefer  an 
innocent  twist  of  yarn  to  a  satin  bow  .  .  .  who  may  want  to 
be  different  but  know  that  all  good  clothes  are  classic.  These 
clothes  are  for  the  year  of  our  Lord  1933  .  .  .  for  college  .  .  . 
football  games  .  .  .  shopping  .  .  .  working.  I've  designed 
a  couple  of  bags  which  aren't  just  old  leather  envelopes.  If  you 
don't  like  the  Hawser  scarf  and  cap,  you're  just  not  the  Hawes 
type  and  can  relax  about  the  whole  business!  So  have  fun  .  .  . 


I  meant  that  copy.  I  was  excited  by  mass  production. 
The  models  looked  attractive  and  I  thought  to  myself  that 
many  of  my  most  particular  custom-made  clients  would 
have  been  glad  to  wear  them. 

I  ordered  a  few  for  myself.  The  jersey  two-piece  things 
were  very  comfortable.  The  skirt  had  to  sit  in  my  waistline 
and  there  was  enough  stretch  in  the  back  and  sleeves  to  take 
care  of  driving  the  car.  The  silk  dresses  caught  me  in  odd 


places,  although  they  looked  as  if  they  fit.  I  had  the  sleeves 
taken  out  at  Hawes  Inc.,  but  there  wasn't  enough  material 
across  the  back  to  ever  get  them  in  right. 

The  sight  of  twenty  identical  Hawes  models  hanging  on 
a  rack  when  the  stock  began  to  come  in  for  the  orders  upset 
me  a  little.  But  I  hastily  reflected  that  most  of  the  women 
who  bought  them  would  never  meet. 

More  upsetting  was  the  fact  that  the  color  combinations 
began  to  go  sour  almost  immediately.  There  was  a  brown 
and  blue-green  knit  in  the  collection  which  came  in,  hundreds 
strong,  in  brown  and  yellow-green.  I  went  to  apprise  Mr. 
Nibs  of  this  dreadful  fact. 

He  said  the  buyers  never  noticed  those  things  and  I 
shouldn't  worry.  I  said  it  was  hideous,  whether  the  buyers 
noticed  it  or  not.  He  told  me  to  relax. 

This  sort  of  thing  continued  unabated  and  apparently 
the  buyers  did  not  notice.  They  didn't  even  notice  if  Mr.  Nibs 
ran  out  of  one  material  and  was  forced  to  substitute  another. 
Sometimes  I  wonder  whether  or  not,  in  spite  of  the  fact  that 
Mr.  Nibs  and  the  buyers  were  really  too  busy  to  care  about 
a  color  combination  being  distinctly  off,  the  public  didn't 
consciously  or  unconsciously  react  by  not  buying. 

Some  months  later  when  the  buyer  was  marking  down 
those  brown  and  yellow-green  knits,  she  could  hardly  be  ex- 
pected to  remember  that  they  bore  little  or  no  resemblance 
to  the  model  from  which  she  had  ordered.  She  probably  just 
said,  "Damn  the  public.  They  always  used  to  buy  brown 
and  green." 

There  seems  to  be  a  decided  tendency  in  the  world  of 
mass  produced  clothes  to  blame  everything  on  the  public. 
There  was,  for  instance,  that  insignificant  little  matter  of 
whether  or  not  the  clothes  fit  the  public.  It  always  seemed  to 
me  that  Mr.  Nibs,  or  maybe  it  was  Mr.  Meyer,  had  a  definite 


idea,  conceived  eighteen  years  ago,  of  just  how  women 
wanted  to  feel  in  their  clothes. 

First,  as  I  have  already  said,  all  the  clothes  were  too  tight 
across  the  back,  too  tight  by  my  standards.  It  is  perfectly 
possible  that  in  the  past  women  liked  their  dresses  tight 
across  the  back.  I  know  that  it  used  to  be  the  thing  to  fit 
sleeves  into  very  tight  armholes.  Some  of  the  older  women 
whom  I  dress  prefer  their  sleeves  fitted  that  way. 

However,  the  younger  generation  drives  cars,  types, 
throws  balls,  and  is  otherwise  active  in  its  clothes.  I  pointed 
out  all  this  to  Mr.  Nibs  but  we  never  did  see  eye  to  eye  on 
the  matter.  Mr.  Meyer  had  been  using  the  same  patterns  for 
years  and  saw  no  reason  for  change. 

I  had  an  uneasy  feeling  that  if  I  had  pressed  the  point 
to  the  extent  of  making  a  real  row  or  threatening  to  leave  they 
would  just  tell  me,  as  they  often  did,  that  I  was  accustomed 
to  dealing  with  a  very  specialized  clientele.  "Oh,  the  women 
you  dress  .  .  .  ,"  they'd  say.  Well,  the  women  I  dress  are 
made  just  like  other  women.  There's  one  thing  they're  very 
stubborn  about.  They  want  to  be  able  to  move  easily  in  their 

I  finally  got  rumors  from  interested  friends  that  the  Nibs- 
Hawes  clothes  did  not  fit  when  they  tried  them  on  in  stores. 
I  hied  me  into  Lord  and  Taylor  and  got  the  assistant  buyer. 
When  I  asked  her  about  it,  she  said,  "All  the  clothes  are 
nearly  a  size  too  big.  We  just  pay  no  attention  to  the  marked 
size  but  see  to  it  that  the  customer  is  fitted." 

She  seemed  quite  unperturbed.  Lord  and  Taylor  have 
a  relatively  intelligent  type  of  buyer  and  salesgirl.  In  the 
Middle  West,  I  suppose  the  salesgirls  tried  to  sell  size  twelve 
Nibs-Hawes  dresses  to  size  twelve  customers  and  everything 
looked  very  odd  indeed. 

I  took  up  the  matter  of  the  fit  of  the  clothes  regularly 


once  a  week,  thinking  that  possibly  the  steady  drip  of  the 
idea  would  finally  penetrate  and  bring  action.  When  I  left 
Nibs,  after  a  year,  the  last  thing  I  did  was  to  mention  that  the 
clothes  didn't  fit.  A  year  later,  I  called  upon  him,  being  in 
the  neighborhood,  and  said  it  was  a  pity  the  clothes  hadn't 
fitted.  He  had  still  "been  in  business  for  eighteen  years." 

Three  years  after  I  left  him,  I  saw  him  again  and  he 
made  a  very  odd  remark.  He  didn't  attach  it  to  anything 
but  he  must  have  seen  that  "fit"  look  coming  over  my  face. 
He  said,  "You  know,  Mr.  Meyer  has  left.  You  know,  Mr. 
Meyer  cost  me  thousands  of  dollars." 

There  are  ways  to  save  a  part  of  the  thousands  of  dol- 
lars which  go  out  the  windows  of  the  Seventh  Avenue  sky- 
scrapers. A  small  example  again  brings  up  the  matter  of 

The  knitted  clothes — they  were  knitted  blouses  worn 
with  woven  wool  skirts — which  I  designed  for  Nibs  sold 
very  well.  The  knitted  material  of  which  the  blouses  were 
made  came  from  a  number  of  places.  There  was  one  very 
nice  young  man  who  worked  with  me  and  made  up  several 
things  according  to  my  ideas  of  weave  and  color.  He  went 
to  a  lot  of  trouble  about  it  and  I  was  awfully  glad  when 
I  saw  the  material  selling. 

One  day,  a  month  or  so  after  we  had  started  delivering 
orders,  the  young  man  called  on  me  and  said,  "What  hap- 
pened to  that  striped  knit  I  made  up  from  your  design? 
It  was  never  re-ordered." 

"What?"  I  asked.  "Why  that  sold.  I  know  it  did." 

"Mr.  Nibs,"  I  found  him  after  the  boy  had  left.  "How 
did  it  happen  McGowan  never  got  an  order  on  the  striped 
knit?  That  sold  very  well,  I  thought." 

Mr.  Nibs  looked  at  me  and  blinked  a  little.  Mr.  Nibs, 
incidentally,  was  a  highly  esteemed  member  of  the  organ- 


ization  which  Joe  Rosenthal  had  formed  to  stop  copying. 
The  copying  which  they  stopped  was  exclusively  limited  to 
the  dresses  which  they  manufactured.  Let  the  fabric  manu- 
facturers and  the  French  look  after  themselves. 

Mr.  Nibs,  at  the  moment  I  asked  about  the  knit,  looked 
slightly  like  a  small  boy  caught  in  a  neighbor's  apple  or- 
chard. "Isn't  that  one  of  the  knits  you  designed?"  He  asked. 

"Yes,  but  so  what?" 

"Why,  I  got  Seldun  to  make  that  up  at  a  better  price. 
Of  course,  if  it  had  been  a  design  you'd  picked  out  of  Mc- 
Gowan's  line,  I  wouldn't  have  done  it." 

I  never  argued  with  Mr.  Nibs  about  that.  McGowan  had 
spent  some  time  and  money  making  my  original  idea  into 
a  knit.  Someone  else  could  copy  it  cheaper — on  the  other 
side  of  the  river  in  an  old  loft  in  Hoboken.  I'd  been  there. 
Seldun  couldn't  work  out  a  new  design  for  me,  but  he  could 
copy  anything. 

I  suppose  the  difference  in  price  between  the  original 
McGowan  knit  and  Seldun's  copy  paid  for  a  few  of  the 
dresses  which  finally  got  sent  back  to  Nibs  because  they 
didn't  fit.  A  lot  of  the  rest  of  them  were  paid  for  by  artificial 

Mr.  Nibs  and  I  had  an  ever  recurring  battle  about  artifi- 
cial silk.  I  don't  object  to  artificial  silk  on  principle.  I  object 
to  it  because  one  never  can  tell  what's  going  to  happen  to  it. 
Sometimes  it  wears.  Sometimes  it  stretches.  Sometimes  it 
shrinks.  Sometimes  it  cleans  and  often  it  washes. 

One  year  I  made  a  dress  of  artificial  silk  in  Hawes  Inc. 
We  sold  seven  of  them  at  about  $145.  I  took  back  seven  of 
them.  The  material  went  into  ribbons  when  it  was  cleaned. 
The  manufacturers  say  it  cleans  if  you  know  what  you  are 
doing.  Unfortunately,  even  if  one  handed  out  a  pedigree  with 
every  dress,  many  cleaners  still  wouldn't  know  what  to  do 


about  it.  The  pedigree  would  be  lost.  Somebody  would  hope- 
fully wash  your  artificial  silk  dress. 

All  in  all,  I  consider  it  a  most  undependable  fabric, 
whether  it's  rayon  or  acetate.  The  public  doesn't  understand 
what  it  is.  Why  do  the  manufacturers  keep  their  customers 
in  such  a  fog  about  the  whole  thing?  If  you  asked  ten  ordinary 
customers,  "What  is  Viscose?  What  is  Celanese?  What  is 
American  Enka  Yarn?  you  would  get  the  answer,  "Oh, 
they're  all  a  kind  of  silk." 

They  are  trade  names  for  artificial  silk.  Some  of  them 
are  made  of  rayon,  some  of  acetate,  the  two  divisions  of  that 
family.  I  understand  that  there  is  an  artificial  silk  in  exist- 
ence which  wears  forever.  I  do  not  doubt  it.  It  is  not  on  the 

Nearly  half  of  the  dress  advertisements  in  the  New 
Yorker  and  in  Fashion  magazines  are  showing  artificial  silk 
dresses.  They  appear  to  be  ads  for  the  merchandise  of  large 
department  stores.  They  bear  a  little  asterisk  after  some 
trade  name  which  refers  you  down  to  a  small  sentence:  "Ce- 
lanese .  .  .*  Reg.  U.S.  Pat.  Off."  "Salyna  .  .  .*  Spun 
rayon  and  cotton." 

Nobody  has  ever  seen  fit  to  try  very  hard  to  tell  the  public 
about  artificial  silk:  that  it  is  a  by-product  of  munitions; 
that  it  comes  in  many  grades,  some  of  which  wear,  others  of 
which  do  not;  that  one  of  your  artificial  silk  dresses  may  last 
forever  and  another  fall  apart  at  the  first  cleaning  or  shrink 
to  nothing  at  the  first  washing;  that  the  artificial  silk  com- 
panies are  very  rich. 

They  are  so  rich  that  they  pay  for  the  store  advertising 
which  bears  the  trade  names  of  their  products  in  many  cases. 
They  are  so  rich  and  they  do  so  much  advertising  that  prac- 
tically no  fashion  writer  would  dare  to  question  their  prod- 


uct's  quality.  No  magazine  or  newspaper  could  afford  to  risk 
losing  that  much  advertising. 

They  are  so  rich  that  they  employ  Fashion  for  large 
sums  to  make  new  weaves  for  them,  design  pretty  clothes 
in  their  material,  help  them  tell  the  world  that  it  is  chic  to 
wear  their  fabrics,  help  them  get  the  public  so  bawled  up 
it  doesn't  know  whether  it's  all  silk  and  a  yard  wide  or  all 
artificial  silk  and  liable  to  shrink  to  twenty-seven  inches. 

My  conversations  with  fabric  manufacturers  since  I  de- 
cided to  use  absolutely  no  artificial  silk  in  Hawes  Inc.  are 
very  revealing.  One  year  they  said  that  only  artificial  silk 
could  be  made  dull  and  that  all  chic  fabrics  were  dull.  That 
was  the  year  that  if  you  spilled  a  drop  of  water  on  the  dull- 
ness of  your  artificial  silk,  it  left  an  irremovable  spot.  The 
next  year,  the  fabric  did  not  spot.  It  was  also  being  made  in 
all  real  silk. 

Another  year  they  said  that  only  artificial  silk  could  have 
the  requisite  shine  to  be  chic.  Even  when  you  showed  them 
the  requisite  shine  on  real  silk,  they  shook  their  heads  and 
just  looked  away  and  said,  "It  isn't  the  same." 

Finally  I  decided  that  I  would  use  artificial  silk  in  Hawes 
Inc.  if  any  manufacturer  would  guarantee  me  not  only  the 
price  of  the  material  in  the  dress  if  it  went  wrong,  but  also 
the  price  of  the  labor.  Hawes  Inc.  takes  back  dresses  which 
go  wrong  for  any  reason  which  is  conceivably  our  fault.  I 
feel  that  if  the  fabric  which  I  have  chosen  for  the  dress  will 
not  clean  or  shrinks  while  hanging  in  the  closet,  it  is  my 

I  have  not,  in  four  years,  been  able  to  find  a  manufac- 
turer who  would  completely  guarantee  me  any  piece  of  ar- 
tificial silk.  I  have  found  a  number  of  manufacturers  who, 
in  the  privacy  of  my  office,  tell  me,  "Well,  I  think  you're 


right.  You  make  such  expensive  clothes.  They  really  should 
wear.  Although  I  shouldn't  think  it  was  good  business." 

One  day  this  fall  a  very  minor  salesman  who  had  been 
selling  silks  for  various  companies  for  years  tipped  the  whole 
matter  off.  He  looked  very  solemn  as  he  told  me  about  the 
old  days  when  you  just  sold  plain  silk,  all  real  silk.  It  wore. 
It  didn't  change  every  season  in  weave.  Business  was  stable. 
He  didn't  know  what  the  world  was  coming  to  now.  Nobody 
cared  about  quality  anymore.  "I  always  say,  Miss  Hawes, 
there  ought  to  be  some  difference  between  cheap  clothes 
and  expensive  ones." 

I,  myself,  think  that  if  you  pay  $3.75  for  a  dress,  you 
might  possibly  expect  it  to  wear  only  for  a  short  time.  Even 
that  isn't  necessary,  however.  There's  always  that  old  friend 
of  the  family,  cotton.  It's  cheap  enough.  Everybody  in  the 
United  States  has  had  a  silk  dress  by  now. 

At  any  rate,  the  idea  is  that  everyone  wants  silk  and  that 
practically  everyone  gets  artificial  silk  and  maybe  it's  satis- 
factory and  maybe  it  isn't.  My  quarrel  with  Mr.  Nibs  was 
on  that  point. 

There  was  a  certain  artificial  silk,  a  good  name  for  one 
of  them  would  be  Notatal  silk,  which  cost  $1  a  yard  and  of 
which  Mr.  Nibs  was  very  fond.  It  was  supposed  to  be  wash- 
able. It  wasn't.  I  found  some  pure  silk  for  $1.15  a  yard 
which  would  wash  and,  although  it  didn't  have  the  weight 
of  the  Notatal  silk,  it  was  really  nice  material. 

Hastening  to  Mr.  Nibs,  I  said,  "Look,  here's  some  pure 
silk  for  only  $1.15  a  yard.  It  will  really  wash.  Can't  we  sub- 
stitute it  for  Notatal?" 

Mr.  Nibs  was  quite  irritated  with  me.  We'd  been  carry- 
ing on  this  battle  for  several  months.  I  had  spent  consider- 
able time  locating  my  cheap  pure  silk.  "Miss  Hawes,"  he 
said,  "will  you  listen  to  me?  Last  year  I  sold  twenty-five 


thousand  dresses  in  Notatal  silk.  Only  five  hundred  of  them 
came  back.  It  is  not  profitable  for  me  to  pay  the  extra  fifteen 
cents  a  yard." 

Knowing  American  women  as  I  do,  the  middle  class  who 
pay  $15.75  for  most  of  their  dresses,  I  was  able  to  complete 
the  story  of  Notatal  silk.  It  did  not  wash.  Twenty-five  thou- 
sand women  had  washed  it.  Twenty-four  thousand  five  hun- 
dred of  them  had  then  thrown  out  the  dress.  Five  hundred  of 
them  had  returned  it  to  the  store  from  which  it  came  and 
gotten  their  money  back. 

You  see,  the  store  won't  fuss  too  much  if  you're  right 
because  the  store  throws  it  back  on  the  manufacturer.  If  Mr. 
Nibs  still  made  a  profit  after  refunding  the  money  for  five 
hundred  dresses,  what  difference  did  it  make  to  him  what 
happened  to  the  other  twenty-four  thousand  five  hundred? 
Running  any  business  is  just  figuring  out  what  the  traffic 
will  bear.  American  women  bear  a  lot. 

Of  course,  at  the  same  time  that  Mr.  Nibs  was  thriftily 
saving  his  fifteen  cents,  Mr.  Meyer  was  quietly  and  well- 
meaningly,  according  to  Mr.  Nibs'  later  confession,  losing 
thousands  of  dollars  one  way  or  another.  The  salesmen  were 
spending  some  more  giving  presents  to  buyers  and  taking 
them  to  dinner,  while  my  manager  and  I  were  frothing  at 
the  mouth  over  it  and  getting  the  buyers  to  come  in  by  a  few 
direct  talks. 

Mr.  Nibs  was  constantly  reiterating  his  two  pet  ideas. 
He  had  been  in  business  for  eighteen  years  and  nobody  was 
in  business  for  his  health.  And  I  was  paving  the  way  for 
teaching  myself  a  big  lesson. 

Mr.  Nibs  used  to  try  from  time  to  time  to  suggest  little 
things  to  me  about  designing  wholesale  clothes  but  he  never 
could  give  any  logical  reasons  for  his  ideas.  For  instance, 
I  made  dresses  without  belts,  just  fitted  in  at  the  waist. 


Mr.  Nibs  said  that  all  wholesale  dresses  had  belts.  He 
was  big  enough  to  give  in,  however,  when  I  asked  him  why 
and  he  found  he  didn't  know. 

To  my  surprise,  after  we  had  delivered  numberless 
dresses  without  belts,  buyers  began  to  write  in  and  ask  to 
have  belts  sent  along.  Mr.  Nibs  was  very  triumphant  about 
this  but  still  he  could  give  no  reason.  I  saw  that  there  must 
be  more  to  this  problem  that  met  the  eye  of  a  custom-made 

I  went  to  visit  the  den  of  another  wholesaler  I  knew, 
one  who  made  evening  dresses.  He  let  me  look  at  his  line 
because  I  worked  in  a  sportwear  house  so  he  knew  I  wouldn't 
copy  anything.  I  saw  innumerable  dresses  without  belts. 

"Do  you  make  dresses  without  belts?"  I  said,  hopefully. 

"Oh,  we  show  them  without  belts,"  he  said.  "They  are 
designed  to  be  worn  without  a  belt.  But  we  never  deliver  a 
dress  without  a  belt  They  can't  be  sold.  Don't  fit." 

A  great  light  burst  upon  me.  It  was  not  as  Mr.  Nibs  in- 
sinuated, that  the  public  were  fanatical  on  the  matter  of 
belts.  The  public  merely  wanted  to  give  a  semblance  of  fit 
to  itself  about  the  waist.  As  no  two  size  twelve  women  have 
the  same  waist  measure,  the  simple  way  out  of  the  whole 
difficulty  is  to  hitch  in  the  extra  inches  with  a  belt. 

I  was  glad  to  find  that  there  was  a  manufacturer  who 
had  figured  out  the  answer.  I  have  always  felt  a  little  less 
despair  about  Seventh  Avenue  since  that  historic  day.  Of 
course  the  same  gentleman  immediately  asked  me  whether  I 
thought  stiff  materials  were  going  to  go  over  next  season  and 
how  I  felt  about  lace. 

I  always  say  that  some  women  like  stiff  materials  and 
always  will  and  other  women  just  like  soft  ones.  About  lace, 
it  packs  well  and  is  flattering  so  why  quibble?  This  is  not  the 
type  of  answer  that  goes  over  well  in  the  world  of  fashion. 


It  ought  to  be  clear  that  even  when  I  was  in  doubt  about 
the  wisdom  of  making  something  for  Nibs,  I  couldn't  con- 
sult him  about  it.  Anyway,  I  thought  at  that  time  I  knew 
how  long  it  took  a  style  to  get  from  the  Duchess  of  Windsor 
to  Rosie  O'Grady.  I  was  just  confusing  style,  a  really  new 
cut,  with  a  red  lobster  painted  onto  any  old  dress. 

So  came  my  downfall.  In  November,  I  made  Nibs  an 
early  spring  line,  known  to  the  trade  as  "Palm  Beach."  I 
had  been  designing  and  selling  clothes  with  fullness  in  the 
front  of  the  skirt  for  a  year  at  56th  Street.  I  concluded 
I  could  put  it  on  Seventh  Avenue. 

Mr.  Meyer  didn't  quarrel  with  me  since  he  still  thought 
I  might  not  be  insane.  Mr.  Nibs  was  still  leaving  me  alone. 
The  first  line  had  sold.  I  finished  up  the  Palm  Beach  clothes 
and  flew  onto  a  freight  boat  to  tour  the  Caribbean,  rest,  and 
design  the  spring  clothes  for  Hawes  Inc. 

After  I  left,  when  the  line  was  shown  to  the  sales  force, 
a  riot  broke  out.  "We  can't  sell  this  stuff,"  they  said.  "Who 
in  the  name  of  God  wants  front  fullness?" 

My  manager  did  the  best  he  could  to  calm  them.  Luckily 
for  me,  before  I  got  back,  the  cables  had  come  across  from 
the  Paris  openings.  Schiaparelli  was  showing  front  fullness. 
The  sales  force  was  reassured  but  nervous. 

Schiaparelli  was  probably  showing  front  fullness  for 
the  third  season  too.  It  was  undoubtedly  the  first  season 
she  felt  sure  enough  of  it  to  put  in  a  lot  of  models  which 
weren't  tight  on  the  tummy.  So  it  was  the  first  season  anyone 
in  the  trade  noticed  it. 

The  sales  force  should  have  been  nervous  because  the 
buyers  said  it  was  too  new.  It  was  the  first  season  they'd  heard 
of  it.  They  didn't  know  whether  the  public  would  like  it. 

Just  to  reassure  the  buyers,  the  sales  force  would  employ 
that  sales  technique  of  turning  pale  with  fright  whenever  a 


bit  of  front  fullness  came  out  the  door  of  the  model  room. 
They  would  look  at  the  buyer  out  of  the  corner  of  their  eyes 
and  say,  "Errr  .  .  .  it's  new,  isn't  it?  Umm  .  .  .  they  say 
Schiaparelli  is  showing  it.  What  do  you  think  of  it?" 

This  after  a  long  careful  explanation  on  my  part  that 
all  they  had  to  do  about  the  front  fullness  was  tell  the  buyers 
that  I  had  been  making  and  selling  it  for  a  year  up-town  very 
successfully;  that  I  was  therefore  quite  sure  the  public  liked 
it,  that,  if  they  insisted,  Schiaparelli  was  showing  it  also.  And 
so  why  not  try  some? 

No,  it  is  not  the  Seventh  Avenue  technique  to  do  what 
it  feels  right  and  stand  by  it.  Naturally  the  buyers  turn  down 
anything  new  which  is  terrifying  even  those  who  are  trying  to 
sell  it. 

The  buyers  have  no  money  for  experimenting.  The  only 
two  stores  in  the  United  States  which  did  anything  with  those 
clothes  were  The  Emporium  in  San  Francisco  and  Lord  and 
Taylor  in  New  York. 

All  the  clothes  sold  fairly  well  in  Lord  and  Taylor.  They 
sold  in  The  Emporium  in  San  Francisco  because  there  just 
happened  to  be  a  girl  in  the  advertising  department  who 
understood  exactly  what  I  meant  when  I  made  them. 

She  explained,  gaily  and  lightly,  about  Hawes  clothes. 
She  said,  as  I  did,  that  they  weren't  for  everyone.  She  got 
them  segregated  so  that  the  people  who  wanted  them  didn't 
have  to  go  through  eight  hundred  fancier  ones.  She  used 
light  wash  line  sketches  to  show  them  in  the  papers.  She 
managed  to  notify  the  proper  clientele  that  the  clothes  ex- 
isted, just  as  I  had  in  the  New  Yorker  for  Hawes  Inc. 

Most  of  the  other  stores  who  bought  the  clothes  adver- 
tised them  in  a  routine  way.  They  mixed  them  all  up  among 
dresses  with  bows  and  satin  ribbons.  They  didn't  notify  the 
public  that  they  had  very  simple  clothes  with  practically  no 


trimming  for  $18.95.  In  1933,  inexpensive  dresses,  much 
more  than  today,  were  loaded  up  with  trimming. 

It  was  almost  routine  for  a  woman  who  wanted  some- 
thing simple  to  save  up  her  money  until  she  could  pay  at 
least  $39.50.  She  didn't  dream  that  what  she  wanted  existed 
for  a  lower  price.  It  didn't  often.  It  still  usually  doesn't. 

No  woman  is  under  the  illusion,  I  am  sure,  that  she  can 
get  what  is  known  to  the  trade  as  "high  style"  under  $89.50. 

Front  fullness  was  "high  style"  in  1933.  That  means 
you  could  sell  it  for  $175  and  maybe  for  $89.50  but  you 
couldn't  sell  it  for  $15.75  because  these  buyers  wouldn't 
take  a  chance  on  it. 

Life  at  Nibs  became  increasingly  difficult  beginning  with 
my  front  fullness.  Nobody  believed  anything  I  said  after 
that.  Front  fullness  did  not  come  in  for  another  two  years 
at  $10.75.  My  timing,  alas,  was  wrong.  I  was  not,  as  I  had 
expected  I  would  be,  proving  a  boon  to  N.  H.  Nibs  just  then. 

I  had  thought  it  took  about  a  year  from  the  beginning 
of  a  new  cut  in  clothes  for  it  to  descend  to  $10.75.  It  takes 
at  least  two  and  a  half  if  not  three  years.  This  has  nothing 
whatever  to  do  with  the  taste  of  the  masses.  The  inexpensive 
public  is  definitely  not  involved.  The  couturier,  her  custom- 
ers, the  manufacturer,  and  the  department  store  buyer  figure 
it  out  for  themselves. 

It  takes  the  couturier  a  year  to  be  sure  that  enough  women 
want  something  new  like  full  skirts.  The  buyers  don't  pay 
any  attention  to  her  try-outs.  The  first  year  that  they  see  a 
great  many  full  skirts,  they  say,  "Oh,"  and  only  Bergdorf 
Goodman  and  the  expensive  specialty  shops  buy  them. 

The  next  season,  a  few  expensive  manufacturers  buy 
a  few  full  skirts  and  show  them  with  great  fear.  "How  do 
you  like  it?"  they  ask  the  buyers  in  New  York.  "Do  you 
think  they  will  be  good?" 


The  next  season,  since  everything  in  Paris  has  a  full 
skirt  and  has  had  for  a  whole  year,  and  Bergdorf  has  been 
selling  them  most  of  that  time,  the  cheap  manufacturer  says 
to  the  buyer,  "Better  get  some  of  those  full  skirts.  Paris  is 
full  of  them." 

The  buyer  has  seen  them  pictured  in  Vogue  and  Harper's 
Bazaar.  She  may  have  seen  a  few  on  the  street,  or  would  have 
if  she  ever  had  time  to  go  on  the  street.  She  buys  them. 

The  public  is  apprised  that  something  new  and  wonder- 
ful has  appeared:  the  full  skirt.  At  least  two  years  have 
elapsed  since  the  women  who  could  afford  couturier  prices 
have  been  able  to  supply  themselves  with  full  skirts.  The  gen- 
eral public,  by  the  grace  of  Seventh  Avenue  and  the  buyers, 
can  now  have  full  skirts. 

There  are  times,  as  I  have  suggested,  when  something 
creeps  into  style  over  a  two-year  period  without  the  manu- 
facturers even  suspecting  it.  These  are  the  revolutions  in 
American  style. 

After  I  had  shown  myself  up  as  a  high-stylist  instead  of 
a  miracle  girl,  Mr.  Nibs  began  to  have  long  serious  talks 
with  me  about  my  attitude  toward  life.  "You  can  be  a  great 
success  down  here  if  you  will  apply  yourself,"  he'd  tell  me. 

"Why  don't  you  put  in  just  a  few  things  each  season  with 
the  coming  line  so  the  buyers  will  get  used  to  them  and  buy 
them  the  next  season?"  I'd  ask. 

"We  are  not  in  business  to  experiment,"  he  answered, 
"but  you  will  make  a  great  deal  of  money  here  if  you  will 
play  along." 

"Play  along  with  artificial  silk,  I  suppose,"  I'd  answer 

I'd  fling  myself  back  to  67th  Street  in  a  taxi  and 
think  up  a  couple  of  new  tennis  dresses  for  the  summer  line. 
But  Mr.  Meyer  was  always  too  quick  for  me  by  that  time. 


Mr.  Meyer  just  took  to  making  up  models  again.  He  never 
had  time  to  bother  with  my  ideas  after  front  fullness.  He  was 
always  filling  in  the  line  with  some  new  number  he'd  gotten 
by  sketch  from  some  vendor  of  new  ideas. 

I  wasn't  distressed  by  that.  I  could  probably  have  learned 
the  proper  timing  and  brought  things  down  from  Hawes  Inc. 
two  years  after  I'd  first  sold  them  there. 

I  realized,  as  Mr.  Nibs  assured  me,  that  we  couldn't 
make  over  the  buyers  and  department  stores  in  the  United 
States  in  a  few  minutes.  The  public  was  in  the  habit  of  wait- 
ing for  new  style.  And  new  style  can  always  wait. 

My  deep-dyed  despair  was  due  to  the  fact  that  Hawes 
clothes  were  being  put  out  in  bad  material  that  wouldn't 
wear  and  this  was  not  necessary  even  at  $15.75.  What  is 
more,  they  didn't  fit  even  that  little  bit  that  present-day  mass- 
production  clothes  can  fit. 

As  despair  deepened  and  Mr.  Nibs  tried  to  tell  me  what 
to  design,  I  took  to  brandy  at  lunch  to  dull  myself  for  the 
ordeal  of  afternoons  on  Seventh  Avenue. 

I  reflected  on  the  Great  American  Design  movement,  so 
blithely  begun  by  Lord  and  Taylor  in  1932.  Now  it  was  the 
spring  of  1934  and  one  heard  comparatively  little  of  the 
American  Designers. 

A  good  many  people  had  originally  insisted  that  there 
weren't  any.  Then,  because  Lord  and  Taylor  told  them  and 
other  stores  promoted,  because  dozens  of  articles  were  writ- 
ten on  American  Designers,  everyone  became  convinced 
there  must  be  some  somewhere.  And,  in  fact,  myriads  of 
people  turned  into  American  Designers  who  had  never  been 
seen  before  and  have  never  been  heard  of  since. 

What  had  become  of  that  widely  hailed  "means  of  stimu- 
lating business"  in  the  dress  industry?  I'll  tell  you  what  be- 
came of  it.  It  simply  wasn't  profitable.  We  were  a  promotion 


which  was  dropped  because,  after  a  while,  either  you  must 
show  a  profit  or  go  the  way  of  all  flesh. 

This  is  okay.  Nobody  objects  to  the  bare  facts.  The  objec- 
tionable feature  was  that  we  American  Designers  were  pro- 
moted ahead  of  our  time.  We  were  not  chosen  because  we 
could  sell  well  at  $15.75.  Most  of  us  had  never  even  seen 
a  machine.  We  were  chosen  to  stimulate  business.  Most  of 
us  didn't  stimulate  it  more  than  a  few  weeks. 

I  should  think  the  whole  American  Design  movement 
was  set  back  several  years  by  being  promoted  right  out  of 
grammar  school  into  the  world. 

Dorothy  Shaver,  the  vice-president  of  Lord  and  Taylor, 
certainly  hoped  we  were  ready  in  1932.  She's  batted  her 
head  against  many  a  stone  wall  and  many  a  merchandise 
man  to  put  across  things  the  public  might  want.  Sometimes, 
like  other  people,  she's  ahead  of  her  time.  If  the  merchan- 
dising men  weren't  always  on  hand  with  their  nasty  little 
figures,  perhaps  the  stores  could  do  a  little  more  unprofit- 
able experimenting  for  the  public  weal.  She'll  pick  up  Amer- 
ican Designers  again  when  there  are  more  to  pick  up.  Her 
merchandising  men  may  not  be  in  much  of  a  hurry. 

The  American  Design  movement  had  to  fall  on  its  face 
in  1932.  There  just  weren't  enough  trained  designers.  The  de- 
signers will  learn,  finally.  They  will  graduate  more  quickly 
from  their  infancy  if  the  stores  and  manufacturers  stop 
throwing  France  in  their  faces  and  will  let  them  use  the  back- 
ground God  gave  them.  The  designers  will  find  out  what 
the  public  wants  if  the  stores  will  stop  concentrating  on  pro- 
motions for  a  while  and  begin  to  worry  about  the  specific 
needs  of  their  clientele. 

The  American  Designers  will  come  along,  of  course,  no 
matter  who  inadvertently  tries  to  kill  them.  But  if  they're 
encouraged,  given  credit  when  they're  good,  allowed  to  ex- 


periment,  they'll  come  along  much  faster.  Of  course,  as 
everyone  knows,  experimenting  costs  money.  "Please,  Miss 
Hawes.  You  talk  like  an  artist.  We  are  not  in  business  for 
our  health." 

"So  I  begin  to  see,"  I  said  to  Seventh  Avenue,  "but  I 
am,  and  to  hell  with  you.  I'll  find  some  way  of  keeping  in 
business  which  doesn't  drive  me  to  drink." 

So  I  retired  to  my  ivory  tower  to  cogitate  about  mass 
production — and  how  to  pay  the  rent 



and  <£%> 

I  SAID  very  clearly  to  myself  what  I  thought  of  Seventh  Ave- 
nue but  I  didn't  want  to  be  convinced.  One  reason  was  that 
I  needed  very  badly  to  earn  money  outside  to  pay  for  67th 
Street.  The  other  reason  was  that  I'd  just  begun  to  suspect 
what  mass  production  of  clothes  might  mean. 


What  the  mass  production  of  clothes  did  mean  ninety- 
nine  times  out  of  a  hundred  was  reinforced  in  my  mind,  after 
I  resigned  from  Nibs  in  April  of  1934,  by  Marshall  Field 
and  Co.  They  wanted  to  push  off  a  new  wholesale  dress  busi- 
ness and  hired  me  to  come  to  Chicago  for  a  working  week 
and  do  six  models.  I  went — for  $1,000  clear  profit  which 
I  needed.  I  was  not  hopeful. 

The  head  of  that  dress  business  was  not  tall  or  worried 
like  Mr.  Nibs.  He  was  small,  but  he  was  strong  and  tough. 
He  wanted  dresses  to  retail  for  $10.95  and  that  was  that. 
Quality  was  necessarily  secondary  and  also  style  if  it  meant 
more  than  25  cents'  worth  of  trimming. 

I  spent  most  of  the  time  I  was  in  Chicago  having  my  pic- 
ture taken  and  being  interviewed  and  taken  to  lunch  with 
executives  and  fashion  writers.  That  was  why  I  was  being 
paid.  The  clothes  were  not  important.  They  could  find  some 
designs  somewhere.  I  got  six  about  finished  between  photog- 
raphers and  came  back  home. 

One  of  my  stipulations  in  working  for  them  had  been 
that  the  clothes  were  not  to  be  sold  with  my  name  except 
where  I  consented.  That  made  no  difference  to  the  new  dress 
business  head.  My  agreement  was  only  oral  anyway.  They 
not  only  sold  my  name  to  a  store  in  New  York  by  whom  I 
didn't  care  to  be  advertised,  but  the  advertised  dresses  looked 
so  different  from  my  original  conception  that  I  was  person- 
ally unable  to  recognize  them  as  my  designs. 

It  is  almost  impossible  for  me  to  get  into  print  what  I 
feel  when  I  look  at  a  dress  which  is  obviously  made  of  a 
material  that  you  could  shoot  peas  through,  that  has  no  shape 
of  any  kind,  but  just  a  belt  around  the  waist  so  the  customer 
can  pretend  it  fits  there,  the  whole  topped  by  some  disgusting 
trimming  which  has  been  added  without  reference  to  the 
line  of  the  dress,  which  doesn't  exist  in  any  case. 


My  soul  curdles.  My  stomach  turns  over  eight  times  per 
second.  My  spine  tightens  and  I  vomit  mentally.  I  don't 
mind  seeing  people  in  those  clothes  because  I  know  that 
most  of  the  time  it's  all  they  can  get  for  their  price.  I  mind 
seeing  advertisements  for  those  atrocities  and  that's  what 
I  saw  in  the  ad  of  one  of  New  York's  largest  stores,  one 
fine  day,  with  my  name  attached  to  it. 

"That'll  be  about  all  of  that,  Hawes,"  I  said  to  myself* 
"You  got  your  blood  money  and  I  hope  it  was  worth  it  to 
you.  In  the  future  there  will  be  no  more  wholesale  clothes 
for  you  until  such  a  time  as  you,  personally,  yourself,  can 
see  to  it  that  they  turn  out  entirely  and  absolutely  beautiful, 
durable,  and  functional." 

At  the  same  time  I  made  the  dress  arrangements  with 
Marshall  Field,  I  talked  them  into  letting  me  have  a  try  at 
really  doing  fabrics  for  them.  I  don't  hold  the  dress  affair 
much  against  Marshall  Field  and  Co.  The  gentleman  with 
whom  I  had  most  of  my  dealings,  the  head  of  all  their  whole- 
sale businesses,  was  an  extremely  nice  man. 

Every  time  he  said,  "Design  a  dress,"  I  said  yes,  if  I  can 
do  fabrics.  The  cotton  fabrics  I'd  helped  them  promote  had 
been  merely  by  means  of  my  dress  designs.  I  wanted  to  get 
at  the  actual  material. 

Moreover  once  I  thought  that  the  American  fabric  man- 
ufacturers would  one  day  use  me  as  the  French  fabric  manu- 
facturers use  the  French  couturiers.  Eventually  the  event 
may  come  to  pass.  Perhaps  one  day  some  American  Bian- 
chini  will  get  together  with  some  American  Rodier  or  Du- 
charne  and  they  will  begin  to  back  an  American  couture. 

At  the  moment,  as  I  discovered,  it  is  not  necessary  for 
American  fabric  manufacturers  to  back  me  or  any  of  the 
American  retail  designers.  This  is  not  for  the  reason  indi- 
cated by  Mr.  Kraemer.  Whatever  kind  of  fools  we  may  be, 


our  foolishness  will  not  see  us  through  the  next  major  de- 
pression without  help. 

I  think  that  by  the  time  that  depression  starts,  there 
will  undoubtedly  be  an  American  couture  to  be  backed.  At 
the  moment,  there  is  not.  However,  our  mere  existence  will 
not  get  us  our  backing,  but  economic  necessity.  Not  our 
economic  necessity,  but  that  of  the  American  fabric  manu- 

Just  at  the  moment,  and  for  many  years  back,  the  Amer- 
ican fabric  manufacturers  have  a  free  source  of  design,  a 
free  try-out  for  fabrics,  a  free  publicity  agency.  The  arrange- 
ments of  the  French  manufacturers  with  the  French  cou- 
turiers serve  to  supply  all  of  these  things  to  American  man- 
ufacturers. The  American  fabric  man  just  sits  and  waits 
to  see  what  is  going  to  prove  good  in  France.  Then  he  gets 
himself  a  little  piece  of  it  and  copies. 

The  system  of  selling  American  fabrics  on  Seventh  Ave- 
nue is  very  simple.  A  salesman  comes  in  and  opens  his  brief 
case.  "Here  is  a  material,"  he  says,  "that  you  will  want  to 
buy.  It  is  a  copy  of  something  which  Molyneux  used  this  sea- 
son. It  is  $2.35  a  yard.  Of  course,  it  is  expensive  but  it  is 
pure  silk.  It's  exactly  like  the  French  import." 

When  it  first  began  to  happen  to  me,  I  used  to  nearly 
jump  out  of  my  skin  with  rage.  "It's  nothing  to  me  what 
Molyneux  uses,"  I'd  snap.  "Besides  that,  what  business  have 
you  got  copying  it?" 

The  smarter  Seventh  Avenue  fabric  salesmen  got  so  they 
didn't  tell  me  what  they  were  showing  me,  but  that  didn't 
make  any  difference.  I  had  always  seen,  or  bought,  and  used 
the  French  fabrics.  I'd  recognize  the  copies  of  them,  one 
after  the  other,  sometimes  almost  as  quickly  as  I'd  seen  them 
uptown,  more  often  a  few  months  later. 

I  am  now  just  sitting  and  quietly  waiting  for  the  day 


when  the  source  of  fabric  design  from  France  will  be  cut 
off.  It  will  be  a  sad  day  for  France,  and  for  the  world,  be- 
cause when  it  happens,  Flanders  Field  will  be  populated 
with  freshly  dead  men  again.  The  French  will  be  fighting 
the  Germans  or  the  English  or  themselves.  And  eventually 
we  will  be  in  it  too. 

Before  we  get  into  it,  the  American  fabric  manufacturers 
will  be  having  good  business.  They  will  be  needing  someone 
to  tell  them  what  to  make  next.  They'll  be  coming  around 
for  little  confabs  with  American  designers  who  know  whether 
they  want  soft  materials,  or  stiff  ones,  whether  it  should  be 
dull  or  shiny,  rough  or  smooth. 

They  have  little  confabs  with  me  from  time  to  time  now. 
Sometimes  it's  free,  sometimes  I  get  paid.  Usually  it's  free 
because  I  can't  help  them  now  as  much  as  the  French  can — 
and  they  get  it  free  anyway. 

Marshall  Field  paid  me  for  learning  how  little  use  I 
could  be  to  a  fabric  manufacturer  who  must  immediately 
sell  millions  and  millions  of  yards  of  each  thing.  Marshall 
Field  is  not  just  a  department  store  in  Chicago.  Marshall 
Field  is  an  enormous  organization  of  manufacturers  who 
sell  to  each  other  and  to  the  Field  retail  store  and  other  retail 

One  day  in  May  1934,  after  I  had  quit  N.  H.  Nibs,  I 
gathered  together  my  thoughts  on  summer  materials  and 
set  out  on  a  train  for  Carolina  and  the  fabric  mills  of  Mar- 
shall Field.  The  ideas  were  not  for  that  summer,  but  for  the 
next  summer,  fourteen  long  months  away. 

It  takes  an  endless  amount  of  time  to  get  the  first  small 
hand-woven  samples  of  a  fabric.  Some  of  the  hand-woven 
samples  are  then  selected  to  be  made  by  machine.  Finally 
the  machine  samples  are  completed.  Corrections  and  recon- 
struction are  suggested.  Ultimately  the  sample  pieces  are 


completed,  and  must  be  shown  early  in  February  for  the 
next  summer's  clothes. 

I  had  a  very  nice  time  in  Carolina.  I  went  down  with 
a  couple  of  men  from  the  Field  Fabric  office.  There  was  to 
be  a  meeting  to  discuss  fabrics  from  many  angles. 

We  were  met  by  a  car  which  motored  us  miles  to  a 
couple  of  small  towns.  Marshall  Field  mill  towns.  I  was 
taken  through  the  mills  to  keep  me  amused  and  presently 
we  drove  away  to  our  final  destination,  a  lodge  high  on  the 
hill  above  one  of  the  towns.  It  was  long  and  low  and  ram- 
bling, brown,  shingled  and  thoroughly  comfortable.  The 
view  was  lovely.  Away  down  in  the  valley  were  the  mills, 
scarcely  visible  through  the  trees.  Across  the  valley  were  the 
mountains  of  Virginia. 

A  meeting  began.  Those  present  being  the  heads  of  the 
mills,  the  gentlemen  with  whom  I  had  traveled  down,  and 
myself.  There  was  some  burning  problem  which  couldn't  be 
kept  down.  We  started  to  talk  about  fabrics  but  soon  the 
discussion  was  off  into  a  bout  between  the  Field  mill  heads 
and  the  gentleman  who  bought  goods  from  them  for  Marshall 
Field  in  Chicago. 

I  stayed  in  the  room  as  long  as  I  thought  permissible  and 
garnered  some  interesting  information.  The  mills  sold  to 
Marshall  Field  retail  store  at  a  discount,  a  lower  price  than 
they  sold  other  retailers.  Therefore,  it  was  not  profitable  for 
the  Marshall  Field  mills  to  sell  to  the  Marshall  Field  store. 
Therefore  the  quarrel:  the  buyer  for  the  store  just  ordered 
and  ordered  but  he  never  got  any  material  delivered  to  him. 
The  mill  heads  were  supposed  to  run  their  mills  at  a  profit 
for  the  owners,  and  it  was  not  profitable  for  them  to  sell  to 
the  store  the  owners  also  owned. 

It  all  appealed  to  me  as  one  of  the  more  amusing  angles 
on  crisis  in  big  industry.  I  spent  two  days  in  Carolina  on 


a  $200  a  day  rate  and  most  of  the  time  I  was  out  of  the  con- 
ferences because  they  were  none  of  my  business. 

I  spent  about  an  hour  explaining  my  ideas  to  the  as- 
sembled multitude,  telling  them  what  I  thought  would  be 
good  for  next  summer  on  the  basis  of  what  I  had  used  and 
was  using  and  would  want  to  use.  They  were  polite  and  even 
interested.  But  they  had  only  one  answer  to  everything. 

"We  can't  go  into  production  on  anything  we  aren't 
sure  we're  going  to  sell  a  million  yards  of." 

I  saw  them  deciding  what  they  would  go  into  production 
on.  They  kept  showing  me  little  swatches  of  material  which 
I'd  seen  before  for,  let  us  say,  $1.50  a  yard.  "How  do  you 
like  that?"  they'd  ask. 

"It's  okay,  but  it's  already  in  existence,"  I  answer. 

"We  can  put  it  out  for  $1.00  a  yard,"  they'd  say,  and 
put  it  in  the  pile  for  sample  making. 

I  didn't  have  any  samples  for  them  to  copy.  I  had  a  lot 
of  samples  to  explain  that  here  was  a  certain  rough  yarn 
in  this  silk  which,  if  it  could  be  duplicated  in  cotton,  should 
give  a  texture  such  as  would  probably  be  desirable  for  that 
summer  fourteen  months  away.  Of  course,  the  silk  was  too 
thin,  the  cotton  weave  should  be  tighter,  and  so  on. 

I  gave  them  all  my  samples  and  thoughts  in  written  form. 
I  came  home  to  New  York. 

Some  months  later,  one  of  them  showed  up  with  some 
samples.  I  couldn't  recognize  any  one  of  my  ideas  but  there 
among  the  samples  was  an  exact  copy  of  a  silk  sample  which 
I'd  taken  along  because  the  twist  in  the  yarn  was  new  and 
would  produce  something  different  by  way  of  texture  how- 
ever it  was  woven.  I  had  my  usual  moment  of  horror  at  see- 
ing a  copy,  intensified  this  time  by  thinking  I  was  inadvert- 
ently responsible. 

Very  quickly,  the  gentleman  said,  "Oh,  we  aren't  going 


to  put  that  in  the  line.  I  know  we  told  you  we  wouldn't  copy 
anything  you  brought.  I  don't  know  why  they  made  it." 

I  don't  think  they  did  put  it  in  the  line.  They  probably 
found  they  couldn't  produce  it  for  a  dollar. 

Anyway,  it  all  came  to  nothing  except  that  I  saw  I  was  no 
good  to  them.  I  wanted  them  to  make  sample  pieces  and  let 
me  use  them  for  a  season  after  which  time,  I  would  know 
whether  the  fabric  was  right  or  wrong,  whether  it  wore, 
whether  the  customers  liked  the  way  it  felt  and  hung. 

This  is  the  step  between  the  first  sample  piece  of  a  fabric 
and  the  weaving  of  thousands  of  yards  of  the  fabric.  This 
trial  period  is  carried  on  in  France  for  the  French  fabric 
manufacturer  by  the  Parisian  couturiers  to  the  small  extent 
that  is  necessary  in  a  country  which  does  its  mass  produc- 
tion for  export  only. 

The  trial  period  for  most  fabrics  manufactured  in  Amer- 
ica is  carried  on  by  the  French  fabric  manufacturer  and  the 
French  couturier  at  no  expense  to  the  American  manufac- 
turer. The  American  fabric  manufacturer  scarcely  recog- 
nizes the  necessity  of  a  trial  on  a  fabric.  He  does  not  under- 
stand it.  He  accepts  a  successful  French  fabric  as  a  fait 
accompli,  ready  for  him  to  copy  in  millions  of  colors  and 
millions  of  yards.  If  you  talk  to  American  fabric  manu- 
facturers about  trying  out  fabric  they  are  either  bored  or 
horrified  at  the  slowness  of  procedure,  the  necessity  for  mak- 
ing those  few  yards. 

Never  will  I  forget,  long  ago,  1930  or  1931,  the  scan- 
dalized face  of  an  American  gentleman  who  asked  me  how 
to  put  a  new  fabric  on  the  market. 

He  walked  into  my  shop  with  a  small  and  unusual  piece 
of  brocade  in  his  pocket.  "Where  did  you  get  that?"  I  asked. 

"We  made  it  all  ourselves,"  he  said.  "We  had  the  idea 
and  worked  it  out." 


"I  didn't  know  there  were  any  machines  for  making  that 
sort  of  thing  in  America,"  said  I,  under  the  shadow  of  the 
French  legend. 

"We've  got  plenty  of  them,"  he  said.  "We  make  a  lot 
of  stuff  for  the  French  manufacturers  here.  You  know,  copy 
their  materials  for  them  so  they  don't  have  to  pay  duty." 


"Sure.  Nobody  ever  questioned  it  while  the  old  man 
was  running  the  business.  But  now  the  boys  have  come  in. 
They  keep  saying  we  ought  to  put  the  stuff  on  the  market 
ourselves.  We  took  this  piece  of  material  to  one  of  the  French 
houses  and  showed  it  to  them.  They  offered  to  take  all  we 
could  make." 

"Well,  why  don't  you  sell  it  to  them?" 

"We  asked  them  what  they'd  resell  it  for  and  they  said 
$7.50  a  yard.  We  could  sell  it  for  $4.00,  but  we'd  be  under- 
cutting their  trade.  The  boys  think  we  ought  to  do  something 
about  it  anyway." 

"Why  don't  you?" 

"We  don't  know  how  to  start" 

"The  first  thing  you  do  is  sell  some  to  Hattie  Carnegie 
or  Bergdorf.  You  can  charge  them  five  or  six  dollars  if  you 
want.  We  can't  buy  anything  like  that  less  than  seven.  Then, 
after  they've  used  it  a  season,  you'll  have  a  little  press  on  it. 
Arrange  to  get  it  into  Vogue  or  Harper's  Bazaar.  See  that 
some  well-dressed  women  get  circulating  around  in  it  where 
they'll  be  seen."  I  ran  through  the  French  system  for  him.  He 
began  to  look  a  little  depressed. 

"We  won't  get  any  volume  that  way,"  he  said. 

"No,  but  don't  you  see,  after  the  first  season  when  the 
wholesalers  have  become  acquainted  with  the  material, 
you'll  be  able  to  sell  it  to  them.  You  can  drop  the  price  for 


them  since  they'll  use  more.  That's  how  you  have  to  go  about 
putting  across  a  new  fabric." 

"It'll  take  an  awful  long  time,"  he  sighed. 

"Six  months  to  a  year,"  I  agreed. 

"And  then  someone  will  copy  it,"  he  said. 

Then  someone  would  copy  it,  I  knew  too.  We  looked  bit- 
terly at  one  another  and  reflected  on  our  great  competitive 
system.  "Can't  you  register  it?"  I  asked. 

"You  can  register  a  print  but  you  can't  register  a  weave," 
he  said.  "I  guess  we  better  sell  it  to  the  French." 

You  can  register  a  print  design  and  sue  anyone  who 
copies  it.  It  works  fairly  satisfactorily,  although  even  that 
game  can  be  beaten.  No  satisfactory  system  for  registering 
a  weave  has  yet  been  developed. 

Occasionally  an  American  fabric  man  goes  to  France 
and  gets  a  sample  length  of  a  print  which  he  rushes  back  to 
America  and  registers  as  his  design  before  the  French  have 
gotten  it  registered  here  for  themselves. 

The  dress  fabric  business  is  a  worthy  base  for  the  Ameri- 
can dress  business.  It  ekes  out  a  rather  unprofitable  existence 
in  a  parasitical  way.  It  begins  by  stealing  ideas  and  then 
competes  with  itself  like  mad  on  the  question  of  price.  It 
runs  hither  and  thither  to  avoid  the  unions.  It  goes  into  bank- 
ruptcy. It  begins  over  again.  Because  there  are  too  many 
manufacturers  in  it,  the  chance  for  existence  lies  in  finding 
some  way  to  beat  the  game,  put  your  competitor  out  of  busi- 
ness, undersell  him. 

Often  it  seems  a  pity  the  manufacturers  can't  take  a  tip 
from  those  hated  unions,  "In  unity  there  is  strength."  Of 
course,  they  try  to  get  together,  but  that  extra  little  dollar 
they  might  make  by  being  lone  wolves  always  throws  their 
mutual  benefit  societies  out  of  whack. 

The  mill  heads  of  Marshall  Field  aren't  going  to  lose  five 


cents  a  yard  by  cooperating  with  the  retail  store  of  Marshall 
Field.  Meanwhile,  none  of  them  are  going  to  bother  paying 
the  rent  for  Hawes  Inc.  because  its  services  are  not  required. 
One  steals  what  one  can,  and  buys  only  the  rest. 

At  any  rate,  I  said  to  myself  after  the  Marshall  Field 
fabric  lesson,  it  only  took  me  two  days  to  find  out  I  have  to 
rely  mostly  on  myself  if  I  want  to  be  a  couturiere  in  America. 

But,  you  see,  the  overhead  at  67th  Street  was  still  too 
big  to  be  covered  by  the  customers'  orders  at  prices  they 
could  afford.  Everywhere  from  $125  to  $350,  my  prices 
were.  Every  season,  my  sales  went  up  25%,  regular  like 
clockwork,  every  season  I  lost  less  money. 

I  thought  to  expand  the  sales  a  little  by  carrying  a  few 
more  things  and  that  is  the  way  I  got  into  the  knitting  busi- 

I  have  always  loved  and  admired  and  worn  simple,  well- 
made  English  sweaters.  I  get  bored  with  the  colors  but  I  never 
get  tired  of  the  shapes  and  the  softness. 

It  didn't  occur  to  me  that  such  sweaters  were  not  made 
in  the  United  States.  I  wanted  to  get  some  to  sell  at  Hawes 
Inc.  in  the  colors  I  chose.  I  found  there  were  none  to  be  had. 
So  I  said,  okay,  I  will  have  some  made.  In  my  quest  for  a 
maker,  I  was  hired  for  a  knitting  job. 

As  far  as  the  actual  job  went,  suffice  it  to  say  that  I 
couldn't  run  a  knitting  machine,  but  from  the  little  I  saw 
nobody  has  ever  half  exploited  that  bit  of  steel.  Knitted 
clothes  are  usually  a  horror  to  behold  with  their  drooping 
behinds.  They're  comfortable  and  they  sell  in  spite  of  their 
bagginess.  They  can  actually  fit  because  of  the  stretch.  Some- 
day— oh  some  day,  some  real  designer  is  going  to  spend 
a  few  years  with  a  knitting  machine  and  turn  out  something 
thoroughly  satisfactory  in  mass  production. 

In  the  meantime,  we  have  no  time  for  experimenting, 


no  free  time,  I  mean.  We  are  in  business  to  make  money.  I 
was  hired  to  produce  something  new  in  the  way  of  sweaters, 
although  their  basic  shape  had  already  been  perfected  as 
far  as  I  could  tell. 

I  got  Miss  Dodge,  my  old  classmate  and  the  warden  of 
Vassar,  to  collect  a  group  of  what  she  considered  the  best 
sweater  girls  on  the  campus  to  consider  the  matter  of  some- 
thing new  in  sweaters  with  me.  I  traveled  to  Poughkeepsie 
to  consult  with  them.  They  were  a  very  attractive  set  of  girls. 
As  I  looked  them  over,  I  perceived  that  they  had  all  gotten 
themselves  up  in  honor  of  the  occasion. 

One  had  on  a  white  turtle-necked  sweater.  Another  wore 
a  red  sweater  with  a  small  round  neck.  A  third  had  on  a  crew- 
necked  Brooks  model.  And  the  fourth  and  the  fifth  and  the 
sixth  had  on  different  colors  of  the  same  models. 

"How  do  you  like  your  sweaters?"  I  asked. 

"We  love  them,"  they  responded  all  at  once. 

"Can  you  think  of  any  improvements  that  could  be 
made?"  I  inquired. 

'Wo/*  they  asserted  firmly. 

I  tried  for  an  hour  and  a  half  to  make  them  tell  me  some- 
thing they  would  like  to  have  in  the  way  of  a  sweater,  some- 
thing new,  something  different.  There  wasn't  a  thing  they 
wanted.  They  wore  sweaters  nine-tenths  of  the  time  and  they 
were  perfectly  satisfied. 

They  would  only  concede  that  possibly  there  might  be 
other  and  more  exciting  colors  from  time  to  time.  I  left  them. 
I  had  discovered  exactly  what  I  feared.  Sweaters  were  quite 

The  only  thing  I  could  think  of  to  help  them  out  was 
to  make  a  sweater  that  was  knitted  to  button  in  back.  They 
were  all  wearing  their  Brooks  coat-sweaters  back-side-to  and 
had  great  gaps  over  their  fannies.  I  tried  to  make  my  knitter 


do  a  double-fannied  sweater,  so  it  would  cross  and  button 
securely  over  the  tail  in  the  rear.  He  thought  I  was  mad. 
Maybe  I  was. 

Anyway  he  shortly  pointed  out  to  me  that  there  was  no 
sense  of  his  paying  me  money  to  tell  him  to  make  a  sweater 
with  a  two-and-two  rib  instead  of  no  rib,  or  to  rib  it  up  to  the 
breasts  instead  of  just  to  the  waist.  He  wanted  me  to  revolu- 
tionize the  sweater  industry. 

What  I  wanted  him  to  do  was  make  classic  sweaters  in 
wonderful  colors.  Far  from  doing  that,  I  spent  most  of  my 
time  telling  him  what  I'd  told  Nibs.  His  knitted  things  didn't 
fit.  "There  isn't  any  use  of  my  designing  anything  for  you 
until  you  can  make  the  sizes  right,"  I'd  shout. 

I  got  out  six  size  fourteen  skirts  one  day  and  showed  him 
that  not  one  of  them  measured  the  same  in  any  particular 
He  just  said,  "Design  something  new.  I  have  a  production 
man.  You  are  a  designer" 

Over  and  over  again,  the  wholesale  trade's  idea  of  a 
designer  is  some  mythical  and  impractical  creature  who 
turns  out  something  new  under  any  and  all  circumstances, 
regardless  of  fit.  The  knitter  paid  me  $100  a  week  and 
wouldn't  even  listen  to  the  simple  facts  of  life  which  I  could 
explain  even  if  I  had  become  convinced  that  sweaters  didn't 
need  designing. 

As  Brooks  Bros,  have  been  quietly  proving  for  the  last 
twenty  years,  the  sweater  business  doesn't  need  to  be  rev- 
olutionized. It  just  needs  a  new  color  and  a  new  weave  from 
time  to  time,  and  even  that  isn't  vital.  Brooks  Bros,  have 
been  taking  the  entire  output  of  a  number  of  mills  in  Scot- 
land for  decades. 

Brooks  Bros,  aren't  even  mentioned  in  the  fashion 
world.  They  are  considered  quite,  quite  unimportant.  Fash- 
ion has  not  been  able  to  persuade  them  to  give  up  something 


good  for  the  doubtful  added  profits  on  something  different. 

Nor  has  fashion  been  able  to  persuade  thousands  of  col- 
lege girls,  as  freshmen  or  graduates,  that  there  is  any  point 
in  buying  anything  but  a  perfectly  simple  and  functional 

All  of  these  little  excavations  of  mine  in  the  mass  produc- 
tion world  began  to  have  meaning  and  by  the  spring  of  1935, 
I  saw  the  bones  of  that  world  laid  bare. 




IN  THE  spring  of  1935  there  happened  a  lucky  accident 
which  paid  almost  all  my  rent  for  over  a  year  and  a  half. 
The  accident  was  due  to  two  things. 

The  first  thing  was  the  result  of  having  made  a  few 
friends  for  myself  during  my  Seventh  Avenue  experiences. 


One  of  them  was  a  shop  named  Dewees  in  Philadelphia. 
Dewees  didn't  sell  any  quantity  of  Hawes  clothes  but  they 
made  a  fuss  about  them  for  promotion's  sake,  and  were 
pleasant  people. 

When  I  stopped  doing  wholesale,  they  expressed  their 
regret.  I  didn't  want  to  let  them  down.  I  therefore  contracted 
to  do  a  few  accessories  for  them  so  that  they  could  continue 
to  advertise  my  name.  Among  other  things  which  I  gave  them 
in  the  spring  of  1935  was  a  glove  which  buttoned  on  the  back. 

They  put  me  in  touch  with  a  wholesale  glove  man  and 
I  made  a  rather  loose  arrangement  with  him  whereby  he 
was  probably  to  give  me  a  royalty  if  the  glove  happened  to 
sell  to  other  stores.  We  had  nothing  in  writing.  I  gave  him 
two  or  three  glove  models  and  forgot  the  entire  transaction. 

In  the  meantime,  the  other  half  of  the  accident  was  taking 
place.  The  Lucky  Strike  advertising  was  managed  by  the  firm 
of  Lord  and  Thomas.  The  method  of  getting  pictures  for  the 
ads  was  to  take  dozens  of  them  and  then  throw  away  those 
and  take  another  dozen  until  finally  one  appeared  which 
pleased  the  agency  and  the  advertiser. 

Because  a  friend  of  mine  worked  there,  they  took  pic- 
tures of  my  clothes  from  time  to  time.  I  was  never  particu- 
larly keen  on  the  idea  because  I  don't  think  ladies  who  wear 
Hawes  clothes  care  to  see  those  clothes  in  cigarette  advertis- 
ing. However,  mostly  in  the  spirit  of  friendship  and  because 
my  friend  kept  assuring  me  that  some  day  something  would 
come  of  it — just  what,  I  never  knew — I  lent  Lord  and 
Thomas  things  to  photograph. 

In  November,  1934,  they  took  a  pink  suede  jacket  and 
a  pair  of  pink  suede  gloves  to  match  it.  The  gloves  had  orig- 
inally been  the  idea  of  my  hat  designer.  She  had  designed  a 
pair  for  herself  and  had  them  made  in  England  in  the  '20's. 

In  1931,  when  we  were  first  beginning  to  dabble  with 


accessories,  she  brought  in  this  very  simple  glove.  It  re- 
sembled in  every  way  the  usual  one  button  glove  except  for 
one  fact:  it  buttoned  on  the  back  of  the  wrist  instead  of  the 

I  liked  it  and  we  had  a  pair  made  up  in  red  suede  which 
clinched  the  idea.  Colored  gloves  didn't  exist  in  those  days. 

We  always  kept  a  sample  on  hand  and  took  a  few  orders 
every  season.  By  1934, 1  saw  no  reason  why  the  Lucky  Strike 
people  shouldn't  use  the  glove  if  they  liked.  I  figured  it  was 
no  more  use  to  us.  And  the  photograph  would  probably  never 
be  used.  It  was  this  same  glove  which  I  gave  to  Dewees  via 
Mr.  Postman,  the  glove  manufacturer. 

Suddenly  in  April,  my  friend  at  Lord  and  Thomas  called 
me  up  and  said,  "Do  something  quickly.  Your  glove  is  com- 
ing out  in  the  May  Lucky  Strike  ads  and  you  must  merchan- 
dise it  at  once." 

The  reason  she  wanted  it  merchandised  was  because 
maybe  you  once  heard  of  a  Camel  Hat.  Maybe  you  heard 
of  the  Lucky  Strike  Glove.  When  something  is  put  on  the 
market  which  appears  simultaneously  in  a  cigarette  ad,  the 
cigarette  gets  a  lot  of  extra  advertising  free.  The  stores  are 
apt  to  hop  onto  the  merchandise  for  promotion  because  it  is 
already  on  the  backs  of  half  the  magazines  in  the  United 

I  have  become  progressively  lazy  where  mass  merchan- 
dising of  Hawes  articles  is  concerned.  Usually  when  the 
smoke  has  cleared  away,  I  find  I've  made  $45.50  on  a  royalty 
and  it  isn't  worth  the  effort.  Had  it  not  been  that  the  glove 
was  already  manufactured  by  Postman,  I'd  probably  never 
have  even  called  up  anyone. 

But  I  did  call  Postman  up  and  explained  all  to  him. 
The  lady  from  Lord  and  Thomas  also  explained  all  to  him 
and  gave  him  reprints  of  the  ad  which  was  to  appear  and 


lots  of  good  advice.  It  was  a  wonderful  picture  of  the  glove, 
that  ad.  The  whole  center  of  the  picture  was  one  hand  with 
a  back-buttoned  pink  suede  glove  holding  a  cigarette. 

The  most  remarkable  part  of  this  story  is  that  Mr.  Post- 
man never  tried  to  trip  me  up  for  one  single  instant.  He  had 
the  glove  and  I  had  no  contract  with  him.  He  proceeded  to 
make  one  with  me,  giving  me  a  five  percent  royalty.  He  pro- 
moted the  glove  to  the  stores,  which  were  delighted.  It  is  not 
often  a  glove  department  has  anything  particular  to  attract 
the  public  attention.  One  of  the  stores  which  bought  it  sent  for 
their  first  gloves  by  airplane. 

Mr.  Postman,  although  a  quiet  man,  knew  his  business. 
He  wasn't  particularly  used  to  promotions  but  he  just  used 
his  head.  He  had  something  and  he  knew  it.  He  gave  a  pref- 
erence of  just  two  days  to  one  store  in  every  town  so  that 
they  could  break  the  news  that  they  had  the  glove  exclusively, 
the  Elizabeth  Hawes  "Guardsman"  glove,  as  seen  in  the 
Lucky  Strike  ad.  After  two  days,  the  glove  was  released  to 
any  other  stores  which  Postman  saw  fit  to  sell. 

We  all  went  to  town,  on  that  old  glove  which  had  come 
out  of  England  five  years  before.  For  years  and  years  there 
hadn't  been  a  ladies'  glove  which  buttoned  on  the  back. 
Maybe  there  never  had. 

I  retained  the  rights  to  the  glove  exclusively  for  Hawes 
Inc.  in  New  York  for  a  very  simple  reason.  We  were  selling 
the  glove  in  suede,  hand-made,  for  $12.50.  It  cost  us  $6  and 
we  took  our  usual  mark-up  to  cover  the  overhead. 

Mr.  Postman  put  out  the  glove  in  cotton  to  retail  for 
$1.95.  This  was  probably  the  most  expensive  cotton  glove 
that  had  appeared  for  years.  Mr.  Postman  figured  he  must 
use  an  expensive  imported  cotton  fabric  in  order  to  make  it 
look  like  the  suede  in  the  picture.  He  also  said  that  suede 


gloves  did  not  sell  in  the  spring.  He  also  said  he  could  al- 
ways cut  the  price  later. 

He  pleaded  with  me  to  release  the  glove  for  New  York. 
I  just  sat  down  and  figured  out  that  for  every  pair  I  sold  hand- 
made at  $12.50, 1  made  $6  toward  the  rent.  If  I  let  out  the 
cheap  version  in  New  York,  I  couldn't  continue  to  sell  my 
version.  I  would  make  $6  on  every  seventy-two  pairs  sold  in 
New  York  on  my  five  percent  royalty.  I  stuck  to  my  point. 
Finally  I  released  the  glove  in  the  summer  after  my  season 
was  over  and  it  was  still  good  enough  news  for  Lord  and 
Taylor  to  run  an  ad  saying  they  had  it. 

From  May  to  November,  I  garnered  in  from  $500  to 
$700  a  month  on  royalties  from  this  glove.  I  thought  it  was 
one  of  the  greatest  jokes  of  all  time.  Mr.  Postman  decided  it 
would  be  a  good  idea  to  make  me  an  employe. 

Usually  I  negotiate  all  my  contracts  myself.  I  know  I  lose 
money  that  way,  but  I  feel  better  about  it.  This  time  I  left 
the  negotiations  to  my  manager.  The  pleasant  young  man 
who  had  helped  me  to  electrify  the  wholesale  dress  world 
and  move  into  67th  Street  had  left.  I  had  a  very  tough  guy 
for  manager  during  1935.  I  was  trying  this  and  that  to  see 
how  one  made  expensive  couturiere  houses  pay  their  way. 

The  tough  guy  made  a  contract  for  me  to  design  gloves 
for  Postman  for  $500  a  month  for  one  year.  I  dropped 
open  my  mouth  when  he  told  me  but  I  figured  Mr.  Postman 
must  know  his  business.  If  I  had  been  on  hand  at  the  time  the 
arrangements  were  made,  I  would  probably  have  pointed 
out  that  it  is  only  once  every  decade  that  a  break  like  the 
Guardsman  glove  occurs. 

A  glove  is  a  small  thing.  It  goes  onto  a  certain  definite 
object  called  a  hand  for  the  purpose  of  covering  it  and  keep- 
ing it  warm  or  clean.  There  are  not  very  many  things  one 
can  do  to  the  small  covering  in  question.  The  hand  must  be 


able  to  move  in  the  glove.  A  shape  has  been  devised  so  that 
this  is  possible  when  the  leather  or  fabric  used  in  the  glove 
is  stretchy  enough. 

The  most  satisfactory  glove  has  already  been  designed. 
It  is  a  simple  pull-on.  It  may  button  at  the  wrist  to  give  a  slim 
look.  It  usually  has  little  lines  on  the  back  because  it  is  as- 
sumed that  ladies  want  their  hands  to  look  long  and  thin. 

A  glove  designer  can  play  around  all  she  likes  trying 
to  make  a  new  glove.  A  majority  of  the  gloves  sold  will  re- 
main the  basic  version.  This  is  not  only  the  experience  of 
Mr.  Postman,  for  whom  I  worked,  but  of  several  other  glove 
manufacturers  whom  he  specifically  asked.  All  of  them  re- 
ported that  what  they  call  classic  gloves  always  outsold  any 
other  type  of  glove  they  showed. 

The  glove  designer's  lot  is,  therefore,  not  a  happy  one. 
As  a  glove  designer,  if  you  aren't  going  to  perpetrate  a  hor- 
ror, your  designing  must  consist  in  simply  doing  something 
slightly  more  amusing  with  the  perfected  form  of  a  glove. 

As  anyone  can  see,  most  glove  designers  are  engaged  in 
ruining  the  basic  shape  of  their  article  by  blurring  it  with 
God  knows  what  in  the  way  of  trimming  and  cutting  and  sew- 
ing. This  is  the  result  of  the  vast  endeavor  on  the  part  of  the 
manufacturer  to  meet  the  demand  of  the  department  store 
for  "something  new."  That  the  public  makes  no  such  de- 
mand is  amply  proven  in  the  case  of  gloves.  The  public  wants 
good  simple  gloves.  And  for  the  most  part  they  buy  good 
simple  gloves. 

The  fact  that  we  buttoned  the  glove  on  the  back  gave  the 
public  something  just  a  spot  different  to  buy.  It  in  no  way 
interfered  with  the  function  or  simplicity  of  the  glove. 

Mr.  Postman  was  a  very  wise  man  in  some  ways.  He 
never  harassed  us  for  more  and  more  designs.  He  said  to 
just  go  ahead  and  send  along  something  when  we  had  an 


idea.  This  was  the  millennium  in  outside  jobs  for  Hawes 
Inc.  Mr.  Postman  had  a  glove  designer  at  the  factory  in 
Gloversville  who  sat  all  day  every  day  making  new  kinds  of 
trimming  and  stitching  and  edging  and  tucking  and  lacing 
and  gloves  which  few  human  beings  would  ever  really  want. 

Of  course,  they  sold  in  a  small  way  because  women  go 
and  look  for  new  gloves  and  often  make  the  mistake  of  buy- 
ing something  rather  fancy  which  they  afterwards  regret. 
Ninety  percent  of  the  effort  in  designing  new  gloves  is  lost. 

One  of  the  bad  points  about  Mr.  Postman's  arrangements 
with  me  was  that,  in  a  world  of  promotion,  he  spent  money 
to  get  a  name  and  something  to  promote  and  then  he  didn't 
spend  another  cent  to  promote  it. 

I  do  not  mean  to  say  that  in  a  sane  world,  any  of  this 
would  be  necessary.  In  a  sane  world,  Mr.  Postman,  who 
makes  as  good  gloves  as  can  bought,  would  continue  to  make 
the  same  gloves  year  after  year,  of  good  quality  at  a  fair 
price.  He  would  probably  hire  someone  like  me  to  give  him 
ten  new  ideas  a  year.  Those  ten  ideas  would  be  culled  from 
the  forty  or  fifty  that  three  or  four  ingenious  Hawes  em- 
ployes produced  without  too  great  an  effort.  If  we  didn't 
have  more  than  three  decent  thoughts  on  gloves,  then  Mr. 
Postman  would  be  content  with  those  and  so  would  the  pub- 

Some  of  the  ideas  would  be  as  startling  as  just  button- 
ing a  short  glove  with  an  old-fashioned  underclothes  button. 
We  did  that  at  Hawes  Inc.  last  year  and  everybody  loved  it 
because  they  were  just  tired  of  looking  at  pearl  buttons  on 
their  wrists. 

When  you  boil  the  business  of  changing  style  and  fash- 
ion down  to  gloves,  it  becomes  almost  too  clear.  You  see  that 
there  is  a  basic  shape  you  have  to  cover  and  an  anatomical 
way  of  doing  it.  You  see  that  the  public  likes  a  little  change 


from  time  to  time  and  that  they  can  be  satisfied  quite  simply. 

You  see  that  the  style  of  the  glove  remains  fundamen- 
tally the  same  because  it  is  functional.  You  perceive  how 
slight  is  the  demand  for  changing  fashion  in  your  glove,  how 
it  is  mostly  a  matter  of  amusement. 

And  you  find  Fashion  kicking  up  a  great  fuss  about  try- 
ing to  make  everything  different  all  the  time.  Through  his 
advertising  departments  Fashion  decrees  that  gloves  must  be 
all  colors  of  the  rainbow  one  year,  that  they  will  be  all  plain 
white  the  next,  that  this  season  they  are  to  have  cuffs  and  next 
season  they  will  have  six  buttons. 

As  soon  as  one  gets  into  any  field  in  wearing  apparel 
where  a  fundamental  functional  form  has  been  achieved,  the 
fussing  and  fuming  of  Fashion  become  startlingly  apparent. 
Oddly  and  satisfactorily  enough,  they  also  become  of  little 
account.  Their  great  aim  of  constant  change  is  stopped  short. 

The  public,  in  a  dumb  way,  just  insist  on  having  what 
they  want  once  they  have  been  able  to  find  it.  They  stick  to 
it  until  something  really  better  crosses  their  path.  Fashion 
may  flaunt  a  million  fancy  gloves  in  their  faces,  the  majority 
of  women  just  calmly  buy  the  most  satisfactory  type  however 
old  it  may  be. 

Just  as  this  is  the  case  with  gloves,  so  it  has  proven  with 
sweaters.  If  a  fundamentally  satisfactory  way  had  been  de- 
veloped for  making  clothes  in  mass  production,  Fashion 
would  be  far  less  successful  in  changing  women's  clothing 
every  six  months.  Fashion  is  not  very  successful  in  changing 
women's  sport  clothes,  including  sweaters.  Sport  clothes  ap- 
proach complete  comfort  and  satisfaction.  They  are  sleeve- 
less, or  short  sleeved,  loose  and,  may  I  say,  "ill-fitted"  ac- 
cording to  the  ideas  of  fit  which  other  types  of  women's 
clothes  try  to  reach.  The  nearer  that  women's  sport  clothes 


get  to  being  simple  affairs  of  shirts  and  shorts,  slacks,  or 
flaring  skirts,  the  less  yearly  change  can  be  found  in  them. 

What  is  the  fundamental  weakness  in  other  types  of  wom- 
en's clothing?  Leave  aside  for  the  time  being  the  ideas  on 
changing  fashion,  together  with  questions  of  style,  are  most 
ready-made  clothes  actually  comfortable?  Do  they  fit?  Can 
they  be  "sized"  right? 

I  say  no,  not  as  they  are  now  conceived  and  designed. 

There  are  no  size  14  women  in  the  world,  nor  are 
there  any  size  16.  There  is  no  wholesale  dress  which  fits  any 
woman  who  buys  it.  No  two  women  in  the  world  have  the 
same  proportions,  width  of  shoulder,  length  of  arm,  height 
of  waist. 

The  great  majority  of  women  in  the  United  States,  never 
having  had  their  clothes  made  to  fit  them,  have  not  the  faint- 
est idea  what  it  is  to  be  really  comfortable  in  clothes,  with 
the  exception  of  sweaters  which  stretch  and  fit  automatically 
and  some  sport  clothes.  Any  dress  which  is  made  to  a  size 
catches  you  somewhere,  in  the  ribs  because  the  waistline  is 
too  high,  across  the  back  because  the  back  is  too  narrow, 
under  the  arm  where  the  armhole  is  too  small. 

Wholesale  clothes  are  all  designed  to  be  made  to  order. 
It  is  during  the  fittings  of  the  type  of  clothes  still  being  worn 
by  all  women  that  the  waist  is  put  in  the  right  place,  so  you 
can  breathe,  the  shoulder  is  made  the  right  width  so  the 
sleeve  doesn't  drag  and  pull,  the  sleeve  is  made  long  enough 
for  you,  the  neckline  cut  out  enough  for  your  neck.  Once  a 
dress  has  been  cut  and  entirely  sewed  up  with  no  material 
left  in  any  seam,  it  is  absolutely  impossible  ever  to  take  it 
to  pieces  and  really  make  it  fit  any  special  woman. 

The  vast  majority  of  American  women  are  uncomfort- 
able in  their  clothes  whether  they  know  it  or  not.  A  good 


many  of  them  know  they  can't  get  wholesale  clothes  to  come 
anywhere  near  fitting. 

How  can  this  be  otherwise  when  the  basis  of  all  Amer- 
ican designing  has  for  generations  been  the  clothes  of  the 
French  couturiers?  Of  their  methods  and  reasons  for  design- 
ing, I  have  already  said  enough.  The  whole  French  couture, 
I  repeat,  is  based  on  crafts,  on  making  designs  to  order. 

The  American  couture,  to  which  I  inadvertently  ap- 
pointed myself  a  pioneer,  is  based  on  the  same  methods. 
This  kind  of  designing  has  no  application  of  any  kind  to 
machine  production. 

Even  the  spirit  of  a  large  majority  of  the  actual  designs 
has  no  application  to  machine  production.  Machine  produc- 
tion is  in  masses  and  should  be  for  masses.  It  must  be  con- 
ceived in  relation  to  the  actual  lives  of  the  people  who  are 
going  to  wear  it  and  not  in  relation  to  a  group  of  women  who 
lead  lives  of  leisure. 

How  much  advertising  space  is  devoted  to  showing 
clothes  designed  especially  for  the  working  girl?  A  little,  but 
a  very  little.  And  how  satisfactory  are  the  clothes  which  the 
working  girl  can  buy  for  her  price?  The  girl  who  wants  to 
look  neat  in  her  office  is  faced,  year  in  year  out,  with  a  little 
black  or  navy  blue  dress  with  the  traditional  white  collar. 
Neat,  to  be  sure — when  she  leaves  home  in  the  morning. 
Neat,  that  is,  if  she  has  time  and  energy  to  press  it  every 

The  stuff  of  her  dress  is  a  mass  of  wrinkles  over  her 
fanny  since  she  sits  hour  after  hour  before  her  typewriter. 
The  back  of  the  dress  suffers  likewise  if  she  leans  against  her 
chair  for  any  period.  The  dress  will  be  neat  if  she  can  afford 
to  have  it  cleaned  often  enough,  for  the  dress  seldom  is  wash- 
able. And  with  all  of  this,  the  typical  office  dress  is  a  deadly 


bore,  an  unglorified  uniform  which  adds  little  to  the  spice 
of  life. 

The  clothes  designers  of  the  future,  the  American  De- 
signers if  you  like,  will  find  some  way  of  solving  these  prob- 
lems of  neatness  and  cleanliness  and  a  fundamental  human 
desire  to  look  attractive.  These  designers  will  also  find  some 
way  of  designing  clothes  that  must  fit,  so  that  they  have  no 
specific  demarcation  line  to  emphasize  the  varying  widths 
of  shoulders,  so  that  they  must,  by  virtue  of  the  basic  design, 
hug  into  any  size  waist. 

The  basic  design  of  something  is  what  you  have  left  after 
all  the  meringue  has  been  scraped  off.  If  it's  a  good  basic 
design,  it  is  functional.  So,  the  design  of  an  untrimmed,  pull- 
on  glove  is  the  base  for  all  glove  design  at  the  moment.  It  is 
a  simple,  functional  covering  for  the  hand. 

The  Hoover  apron,  that  simple  tie-around  affair,  orig- 
inally blue  cotton  with  a  white  collar,  is  a  basic  design.  It  is 
thoroughly  functional  when  used  as  an  apron.  It  is  not  func- 
tional as  a  dress  because  it  only  wraps  across  the  front  and 
so  can  fly  open  when  you  walk  in  it. 

The  basic  design  of  most  wholesale  dresses,  the  reason 
that  manufacturers  can  do  nearly  a  whole  "line"  on  one  pat- 
tern, is  a  simple  affair.  The  whole  garment  is  cut  straight  up 
and  down  the  material.  The  skirt  is  two  straight  pieces  with 
seams  on  either  side.  Pleats  may  be  inserted  at  various  spots, 
godets  may  be  set  in.  The  base  of  the  skirt  remains  the  same. 
The  waist  is  attached  to  the  skirt  in  the  waistline  (wherever 
that  is)  and  has  darts  below  the  bust  to  give  room  above. 
There  are  two  darts  on  the  shoulder  to  give  room  below. 
There  is  an  armhole  into  which  is  set  a  straight  sleeve.  Full- 
ness may  be  inserted  into  the  sleeve,  the  neck  may  be  left 
high  or  cut  low  in  any  one  of  many  shapes.  A  collar  may  be 


added,  or  a  bow,  or  a  clip,  or  a  belt.  The  basic  pattern  re- 
mains the  same. 

As  I  have  said,  it  is  in  the  fitting  of  even  this  simplest 
type  of  basic  present-day  dress  pattern  to  the  individual  that 
all  allowances  are  made  for  variations  in  physical  structure. 
And  if  I  have  not  made  it  plain  that  such  a  design  cannot 
really  fit  without  being  made  to  order,  then  you  will  have 
to  have  one  made  for  yourself  to  convince  you! 

When  I  say  that  mass-produced  clothes  should  be  de- 
signed on  basic  patterns  which  can  be  made  by  machine,  I 
mean  that  either  we  must  not  try  to  have  them  fit  as  custom- 
made  clothes  fit  or  we  must  have  materials  to  make  them  of 
which  do  not  now  exist. 

We  may  perhaps  have  dresses  which  are  quite  full  and 
blousy,  gathered  in  at  the  waist,  which  must  not  be  cut  in  the 
garment,  by  a  belt  or  sash  of  some  kind.  The  shoulder  and 
sleeve  must  not  try  to  fit  tightly  but  must  cover  the  shoulder 
and  arm  comfortably  and  loosely. 

The  Japanese  kimono  is  a  basic  design  of  this  sort.  It  is 
not,  however,  a  thoroughly  functional  design  for  our  more 
active  Western  pursuits.  The  Hoover  apron  is  made  on  the 
same  wrap-around  principle. 

I  cannot  say  exactly  how  mass-produced  clothes  should 
be  cut  because  I  only  know  that  they  are  wrong.  I  have  full 
confidence  that  some  designer  or  designers,  working  unham- 
pered by  any  fashionable  legends,  will  develop  something 
about  which  I  have  so  far  had  only  time  to  think. 

To  make  possible  the  designing  of  clothes  which  fit,  the 
fabric  manufacturers  will  have  to  become  American  fabric 
manufacturers,  or  machine  manufacturers.  They  must  cre- 
ate materials  which  stretch,  perhaps  only  in  certain  places. 
There  is  already  a  tiny  beginning  of  that  in  Lastex. 

Probably  I  am  being  far  too  unimaginative.  Probably 


the  clothes  designer  of  the  future  will  design  a  mold  into 
which  will  be  poured  some  substance  which  will  solidify  into 
a  finished  garment. 

Undoubtedly  even  before  that  we  will  have  delightful 
paper  underclothes  which  can  be  worn  and  thrown  out  after 
being  bought  by  the  gross  at  Woolworth's.  And  paper  other 
clothes  for  hot  summer  days.  Insulated  overcoats  will  be  nice 
because  they  won't  weigh  anything. 

I  would  not  be  doing  justice  to  the  future  of  clothes  if  I 
did  not  point  out  that  practically  all  psychologists  who  have 
bothered  to  consider  the  subject  agree  that  eventually  we  will 
all  become  nudists. 

The  time,  money,  and  energy  spent  on  dressing  will  be 
directed  toward  the  desirable  end  of  being  actually,  physi- 
cally beautiful,  thereby  making  us,  ourselves,  so  decorative 
that  it  will  be  quite  unnecessary  to  cover  our  ugliness  with 
garments  of  any  kind.  That  basic  reason  for  wearing  clothes 
at  all,  sex  appeal,  will  shine  out  all  over  our  healthy  skins. 

Modesty,  another  reason  for  wearing  clothes,  is  already 
rapidly  going  by  the  boards.  Most  people  believe  that  the 
final  matter  of  wearing  clothes  for  protection  will  be  washed 
up  by  our  securing  complete  control  of  our  physical  en- 
vironment in  the  matter  of  heating,  cooling,  and  what-not. 

Thus,  in  the  broadest  sense  of  the  word,  nobody  should 
consider  the  future  of  any  clothing,  for  there  will  be  no  such 
animal.  Every  individual  will  go  about,  to  quote  I.  C.  Flugel, 
"distaining  the  sartorial  crutches  on  which  he  perilously 
supported  himself  during  the  earlier  tottering  stages  of  his 
march  towards  a  higher  culture." 

Since  I  fear  we  shall  all  be  dead  before  this  highly  desir- 
able end  of  all  dress  designers  is  accomplished,  I  throw  the 
idea  into  the  pot  where  I'm  stewing  up  other  legends. 

At  any  rate,  I  am  away  ahead  of  my  story.  It  was  the  very 


obvious  beginning  of  a  return  to  prosperity  which  gave  me 
time  to  have  a  flight  of  fancy,  in  the  spring  of  1935. 

My  customers  began  to  order  more  clothes,  the  Smith 
Co.,  for  whom  all  this  time  I'd  been  designing  bags,  had,  to 
their  great  chagrin,  paid  me  several  thousand  dollars  in 
royalties  on  a  much  larger  gross  business  than  they'd  antici- 
pated when  we  made  the  contract.  This,  I  assume,  must  be 
ascribed  to  their  ability  to  cut  prices.  If  you  recall,  they  were 
running  an  out-of-town  non-union  shop. 

Mr.  Postman  was  beginning  to  shower  me  with  Lucky 
Strike  royalties.  I  had  time  to  be  theoretically  bothered  over 
mass  production,  since  the  crafts  were  beginning  to  support 
me  to  it. 

I  had  time  to  reflect  on  the  instability  of  all  legends,  in- 
cluding the  French.  I  decided  to  take  a  long  trip. 




DJCE  many  another  questing  soul,  I  wanted  to  go  to  the 
oviet  Union.  Just  what  anyone  expects  to  discover  about 
the  progress  of  socialism  by  skidding  over  the  outside  edge  of 
a  foreign  country  for  a  few  weeks,  I  don't  know.  Annually 
dozens  of  people  seem  to  discover  what  they  want  to  and  to 
publish  their  findings. 


Some  of  them  find  out  it  is  heaven,  others  of  them  dis- 
cover joyfully  that  it  is  hell.  Life  seems  to  be  a  continual 
combination  of  the  two,  the  U.S.S.R.  being  no  exception. 

I  was  fortunate  in  meeting  the  Soviet  Consul  in  New  York 
before  I  left  and  he  proposed  that  I  take  along  some  clothes 
to  show  in  Moscow.  I  was  delighted  because  I  knew  I  would 
see  more  in  the  U.S.S.R.  if  I  were  not  just  a  tourist. 

The  whole  story  of  my  Russian  expedition  has  little  place 
here.  Suffice  it  to  say  that  I  was  fascinated  with  looking  at 
a  bit  of  the  beginning  of  something  and  they  were  fasci- 
nated with  looking  at  my  most  elaborate  and  capitalistic 

I  found  the  Soviet  clothing  industry  in  a  very  embryonic 
stage,  just  having  arrived  at  the  point  of  covering  one  hun- 
dred and  sixty  million  socialists  once.  There  was  little  the 
Russians  could  teach  me  about  clothes,  but  one  hopeful  bit 
of  theory  sticks  in  my  mind. 

The  head  of  the  Dress  Trust,  a  thoroughly  intelligent  and 
pleasant  lady  who  in  many  ways,  even  physically,  resembled 
Mary  Lewis  of  Best  and  Co.,  made  this  one  point  quite  clear 
to  me.  What  she  said  was  also  backed  up  by  what  I  saw.  The 
Soviet  Dress  Trust  was  basing  its  efforts  as  far  as  possible  on 
a  simple  fact  of  life:  The  public  should  have  what  it  wants, 
not  what  the  Dress  Trust  decides  it  should  want  or  might 
want,  but  what  that  public  declares  itself  as  wanting. 

The  machinery  for  discovering  wants  was  still  as  em- 
bryonic as  the  clothing  business.  It  consisted  in  public  show- 
ings of  newly  designed  models  for  one  thing.  The  audience 
voted  on  which  dresses  pleased  them  and  these  models  were 
put  into  mass  production.  Another  method  was  filling  in 
blanks  in  stores,  criticizing  what  existed  or  asking  for  what 
did  not  exist. 

My  life  in  American  department  stores,  except  as  a  cus- 


tomer,  which  is  bad  enough,  has  been  limited  to  my  jobs  in 
France.  I  therefore  quote  a  very  astute  lady  named  Marion 
Taylor,  then  employed  by  Vogue  as  a  merchandising  coun- 
cil. Miss  Taylor  made  a  speech  in  Chicago  in  the  spring  of 
1937  in  which  she  especially  stressed  one  point. 

Once,  she  said,  there  was  a  system  of  "want  slips"  in  de- 
partment stores.  These  slips  were  to  be  filled  out  by  the  sales- 
people, notifying  the  buyers  of  things  which  the  public 
wanted  and  which  the  store  was  not  providing.  I  gathered 
that  in  the  course  of  human  events,  the  use  of  these  slips  had 
fallen  into  disrepute. 

Miss  Taylor  was  telling  the  merchants  present  in  no  un- 
certain terms  that  they  would  do  well  to  revive  these  slips. 
"You  do  not  pay  enough  attention  to  the  wants  of  your  cus- 
tomers," she  said. 

Her  opinion  is  shared  by  the  head  of  the  personnel  sec- 
tion of  a  large  group  of  department  stores.  He  told  me  one 
day  that  the  average  department  store  spent  two-thirds  of  its 
energy  competing  with  the  offerings  of  other  stores  rather 
than  simply  trying  to  find  out  what  the  customers  wanted. 

The  opinion  is  likewise  shared  by  a  large  section  of  the 
public.  "And  when  I  asked  the  salesgirl  for  a  coat  without 
fur,"  say  one  hundred  thousand  women,  "she  just  looked  at 
me.  'Madame,'  she  said  with  raised  eyebrows,  'coats  without 
fur  are  not  being  worn  this  season.'  What  could  I  do?"  What 
could  she  do?  The  Duchess  of  Windsor  was  wearing  a  coat 
with  fur  that  season  and  one  hundred  thousand  women  could 
do  likewise  or  go  without.  The  dictates  of  dear  old  Fashion 
come  first. 

One  thing  which  upset  me  a  good  deal  in  Russia  was  the 
dictates  of  dear  old  something-or-other  were  taking  a  num- 
ber of  Russian  gentlemen  out  of  their  beautiful  and  comfort- 
able Russian  blouses  into  the  masculine  strait-jackets  of 


our  Western  civilization.  Oh,  I  know  that  if  you've  been 
beaten  down  for  centuries  while  wearing  a  blouse,  the  first 
thing  you  do  upon  freeing  yourself  is  to  cast  off  the  outward 
signs  of  slavery.  Nevertheless,  I  consider  the  rise  of  uncom- 
fortable men's  clothes  in  the  Soviet  Union  by  all  odds  the 
most  pernicious  result  of  the  revolution. 

I've  always  been  preoccupied  with  men's  clothes,  first 
because  they're  comfortable  and  second  because  they're  un- 
comfortable, third  because  they're  ugly  and  fourth  because 
they're  handsome.  It  was  men's  clothes  that  paid  my  fare  to 

In  the  spring  of  1935  a  young  lady  turned  up  in  my  office 
from  the  American  Magazine.  She  told  me  that  they  had  a 
new  color  process  and  that  the  editor  thought  it  would  be 
amusing  to  get  some  women's  designer  to  do  sketches  of  col- 
ored, and  therefore,  original  clothes  for  men,  which  they 
could  print. 

"Fine,"  I  said,  "how  different  can  I  make  them?" 

"Well,"  she  said,  "the  editor  is  quite  broadminded." 

I  thought  she  was  just  offering  me  what  people  have  a 
way  of  thinking  is  "free  publicity"  but  I  am  very  weak  about 
falling  for  what  I  want  to  do  anyway.  I  wanted  to  do  some- 
thing about  men's  clothes.  I  told  her  to  go  back  and  get  it 
quite  straight  how  many  and  what  kind  of  things  the  maga- 
zine wanted  as  I  was  in  a  hurry,  leaving  town  in  three  weeks. 

The  next  day  my  secretary  came  to  me  laughing.  "The 
American  Magazine  just  called  up,"  she  said.  "The  girl  was 
quite  embarrassed.  She  forgot  to  speak  to  you  about  're- 
muneration.' All  they  will  be  able  to  pay  you  is  $500.  She 
wants  to  know  whether  that  will  be  enough." 

It  was  just  enough  to  make  my  trip  to  Russia  easy  instead 
of  just  a  bit  difficult.  I  felt  as  if  I'd  found  the  money  under 


a  stone  some  place.  So  I  set  to  work  to  whip  up  four  sketches 
of  men's  clothes. 

I  had  already  done  some  research  into  men's  clothes  for 
an  article  I  wrote  and  threw  in  the  waste  basket  afterward.  I 
was  moved  to  do  a  piece  one  night  while  hearing  a  lecture  at 
the  New  School  for  Social  Research  in  New  York.  Frank 
Lloyd  Wright,  "modern  architect"  and  functional  designer, 
was  expounding  on  the  new  world.  He  was  properly  attired 
in  a  stiff  shirt  and  a  black  Tuxedo. 

Every  time  he  said  "modern,"  his  stiff  shirt  cracked. 
Every  time  he  said  "functional,"  the  shirt  rose  a  little  more 
out  of  the  vest.  He'd  unconsciously  pat  it  into  place  again 
and  continue. 

I  thought  of  all  the  architects  I'd  once  made  a  speech  to 
at  their  League.  Some  of  them  were  "old  school,"  neo-Greek, 
neo-Gothic,  nineteenth  century  in  outlook.  Some  of  them  were 
younger  in  age  and  equally  neo.  A  few  of  them  were  working 
on  reinforced  concrete  buildings,  radio-cities,  mass  produc- 
tion houses.  All  of  them  were  properly  attired  in  versions  of 
the  evening  clothes  their  fathers  and  grandfathers  had  worn 
before  them. 

"Fantastic,"  I  murmured,  as  Frank  Lloyd  Wright  de- 
livered another  blast  at  the  dead  past.  And  I  began  to  ask 
questions  at  dinner  parties. 

"Are  you  comfortable?"  I  inquired  solicitously  of  a  gen- 
tleman who  had  just  surreptitiously  put  his  finger  into  the 
edge  of  his  collar  and  wiggled  it  a  bit. 


"Are  you  comfortable  in  those  clothes?" 

"Of  course!" 

"Really?  I  thought  your  collar  was  cutting  into  your 
neck,"  I  said. 

"It's  an  old  collar  and  it's  rough  on  the  edge,"  he  ex- 


plained.  Then  he  added  belligerently.  "There  is  nothing 
wrong  with  these  clothes." 

That's  where  I  always  had  the  men.  They  became  furious 
the  minute  their  clothes  were  questioned.  Fury  either  took 
the  form  of  a  coldness  and  a  quick  get-away  or  a  violent 
argument.  This  with  the  exception  of  a  few  men  who  agreed 
with  me  a  hundred  percent. 

The  matter  of  men's  evening  clothes  got  me  down  so  that 
I  gave  up  having  people  dress  when  they  came  to  my  house 
for  dinner.  What  parties  I  give  are  anything  but  formal. 

However,  ladies  quite  rightly  prefer  to  dress  in  the  eve- 
ning. Ladies  evening  clothes  are  so  supple,  so  comfortable, 
and  can  be  so  alluring. 

I  found,  that  once  my  mind  had  gotten  stiff-shirt  con- 
scious, I  spent  hours  after  dinner  waiting  to  see  which  gentle- 
man's shirt  would  crack  first.  I  will  grant  them  that  if  the  stiff 
shirt  is  properly  cut  and  fitted  and  tied  down  and  the  party 
is  one  at  which  one  never  relaxes  but  just  sits  in  a  straight 
chair  and  makes  formal  talk,  the  stiff — or  stuffed — shirt  is 
the  perfect  adjunct. 

When  most  of  the  furniture  consists  of  couches  and  there 
aren't  enough  of  those  to  go  around  finally,  when  there  is 
plenty  of  Scotch  and  soda  and  everyone  breaks  down  and  be- 
gins to  chatter,  then  I  always  fervently  hope  that  some  brave 
male  will  just  rip  off  his  stiff  shirt  and  let  his  tummy  sink 
comfortably,  his  back  bend  into  the  curve  of  his  upholstered 

When  summer  comes  burning  into  New  York  and  every- 
thing goes  informal  or  out  of  town,  then  no  man  expects  to 
dress  for  dinner.  They  come  happily  in  their  light  wool  suits 
and,  as  they  drink  their  second  cocktail,  little  drops  of  per- 
spiration begin  to  appear  here  and  there. 


This  is  how  I  developed  my  second  big  idea  on  male  gar- 
ments. "Why  don't  you  take  off  your  coat?" 

The  male  would  first  look  surprised  and  pleased,  then 
sigh  to  himself  as  he  said,  "I  have  on  suspenders." 

"Why  don't  you  wear  a  belt?" 

"My  trousers  wouldn't  hang  right,"  he  said  first.  Later, 
"Suspenders  are  more  comfortable." 

Days  of  research  assured  me  that  suspenders  are  more 
comfortable.  I  wouldn't  believe  it  at  first.  I  felt  sure  it  was 
just  the  tradition  of  the  pleated  trouser.  Finally  I  became 
quite  convinced  that  having  your  pants  loose  around  the 
waist  and  hung  from  the  shoulder  is  a  lot  better  than  binding 
yourself  in  the  middle  with  a  leather  strap. 

That  is  how  I  first  came  to  worry  about  suspenders.  They 
are  certainly,  by  and  large,  so  ugly  that  I  don't  know  as  I 
would  want  to  expose  them  in  the  presence  of  any  lady  whose 
aesthetic  regard  I  valued. 

In  connection  with  colors,  the  main  demand  of  the  Amer- 
ican Magazine,  my  tactics  in  questioning  were  as  follows: 
"What  do  you  like  to  buy  most?" 

The  inevitable  response,  after  consideration,  was  "Neck- 

Just  to  cut  things  short,  I  replied,  "That's  because  it's 
the  only  thing  you  wear  that  has  any  color  in  it  at  all.  It's 
perfect  nonsense." 

"Color!"  They  snorted.  "Only  pansies  wear  colored 

God  help  the  American  male  with  his  background  of 
having  to  be  Masculine.  It's  practically  as  all-pervading  in 
his  conscious  and  subconscious  as  the  fashionable  lady's 
desire  to  be  fashionable.  In  1935  it  was  not  masculine  to 
wear  shirts  open  at  the  neck;  it  was  not  masculine  to  wear 
colors  excepting  navy,  black,  brown,  gray,  and  tan;  it  was 


not  masculine  to  wear  sandals.  It  was  masculine  to  wear  wool 
all  the  year  round,  stiff  shirts  in  the  evening,  heavy  shoes  all 
summer  long.  Only  a  few  years  before  that,  it  had  not  been 
right  to  wear  soft  collars  at  any  time. 

I  turned  out  my  four  sketches  for  the  magazine  just  be- 
fore I  sailed  for  Russia.  My  sport  clothes  were  quite  routine, 
sweaters  and  trousers  arranged  so  they  could  be  worn  nor- 
mally or  tucked  into  the  tops  of  heavy  socks  if  the  golf  course 
was  wet. 

I  can  find  nothing  wrong  with  trousers.  They're  both 
comfortable  and  practical.  I  prefer  to  wear  them  myself 
when  I'm  working  or  otherwise  active.  I  wouldn't  recom- 
mend them  for  cases  where  feminine  allure  is  the  main  ob- 
ject. At  the  same  time  I  was  doing  the  American  Magazine 
things,  it  hadn't  occurred  to  me  that  there  were  times  when 
males  might  do  well  in  skirts,  too. 

I  did  a  business  suit  for  the  American  with  a  dentist's 
blouse  shirt  and  a  collarless  coat  cut  in  Tuxedo  fashion,  not  to 
button.  No  necktie  because  the  shirt  was  a  color,  and,  any- 
way, there  was  no  collar,  just  a  straight  band.  It  would  be 
well  to  obliterate  the  collars  on  men's  sack  coats.  They  sel- 
dom if  ever  fit.  They  hunch  up  when  a  man  sits  even  if  they 
are  cut  to  fit  when  he  stands.  In  fact,  the  well  cut  coat  of  a 
business  suit  is  an  idiocy.  In  order  to  sit  down  in  it,  the  man 
has  to  unbutton  it! 

The  evening  clothes  included  kummerbunds,  soft  shirts 
with  bands  for  collars,  colors.  Of  the  colors,  in  the  American 
Magazine,  we  will  not  speak.  I  got  samples  of  the  fabrics  I 
would  have  used  for  the  clothes  and  gave  the  colors.  The  new 
color  process  was  not  very  accurate.  Also  the  artist  who  did 
the  finished  sketches  for  the  magazine  added  bits  like  navy 
blue  shoes  which  I  had  not  indicated. 

The  thing  came  out  in  the  fall  after  I  had  returned.  I  was 


quite  shocked  at  the  appearance  of  the  sketches.  Not  so  the 
entire  public.  Letters  began  to  roll  in  from  all  over  the  coun- 
try. "Where  can  I  get  that  shirt?"  "Please,  Miss  Hawes,  do 
some  more  clothes  for  men." 

I  thought  I'd  better  continue  and  spent  a  month  trying  to 
line  up  just  five  men  who  would  buy  themselves  suits  of  my 
design.  I  got  Tony  Williams,  the  New  York  tailor,  to  say  he'd 
make  the  things  up,  but  my  initial  mistake  was  in  not  decid- 
ing then  and  there  to  present  the  men  with  the  clothes.  It  gave 
me  an  inferiority  complex  in  my  negotiations. 

For  instance,  there  was  the  Forum.  Mr.  Henry  Goddard 
Leach  sent  me  word,  after  he  saw  the  American  Magazine 
sketches,  that  he  would  like  me  to  do  an  article  on  the  sub- 
ject. Goody,  I  thought.  I  made  an  appointment  to  see  him. 

"Mr.  Leach,"  I  said,  to  a  tall  gentleman  of  middle  age 
who  stands  up  very  straight  and  is  well  built,  "If  you  believe 
in  having  more  comfortable  clothes,  will  you  buy  yourself  a 
suit  of  my  design  made  by  a  good  tailor?" 

Mr.  Leach  looked  a  little  put  out. 

"I  will  go  farther,"  I  added.  "You  want  an  article  from 
me.  I  will  do  it  for  you  for  nothing  if  you  will  buy  a  suit." 

We  discussed  suits.  Mr.  Leach  was  very  proud  of  his 
shirts  which  he  had  made  specially  of  some  to-him-wonder- 
ful  material,  a  bit  of  pique  which  we  girls  have  been  using 
for  shirts  for  years.  Finally  I  brought  him  back  to  the  point. 
Would  he  wear  a  Hawes  suit? 

"Miss  Hawes,"  he  said,  "I  wear  anything  I  please.  I 
don't  care  what  anyone  says.  But  I  shall  have  to  see  what  my 
wife  thinks  about  this." 

I  guess  his  wife  did  not  think  well  of  it.  I  did  him  an 
article  but  it  wasn't  "controversial"  enough  for  him.  So  I 
dropped  that. 

Then  I  nabbed  Stanton  Griffis,  a  gentleman  from  Wall 


Street.  Since  Mr.  Griffis  had  shown  so  much  imagination  in 
his  successful  business  career,  which  includes  not  just  stocks 
and  bonds  but  books  and  the  theater,  I  thought  he  might 
humor  me.  Besides,  he  is  a  nice  man.  That  was  my  trouble 
with  him.  I  took  pity  on  him. 

I  got  myself  invited  to  the  rodeo  one  night  for  the  express 
purpose  of  selling  Stanton  Griffis  a  suit.  I  stuck  through 
thick  and  thin  and  saw  to  it  that  I  got  taken  home  the  last  of 
three  ladies  by  quietly  forgetting  to  remind  him  when  we 
went  by  67th  Street  the  first  time. 

As  soon  as  we  had  dropped  Margaret  Case  of  Vogue  on 
upper  Park  Avenue  and  Stanton  had  said,  "Twenty-one  East 
Sixty-seventh  Street,"  to  the  chauffeur,  I  set  to. 

"Stanton,"  I  inquired,  "will  you  buy  a  suit  from  me?" 

"Of  course,  I  will,"  he  answered.  (I  might  have  known 
it  was  all  going  too  easily.)  "I  didn't  know  you  were  going 
into  the  men's  business." 

I  settled  back  more  comfortably  in  the  corner  of  the  car. 
"I'm  not  really.  Tony  Williams  will  make  the  clothes.  I  just 
want  to  design  them.  What  color  will  you  have?" 

A  tension  came  over  Mr.  Griffis'  body  which  I  could  per- 
ceive even  in  the  dark  and  from  the  other  side  of  the  car. 
"These  are  not  to  be  just  ordinary  suits,"  I  remarked. 

Mr.  Griffis  cleared  his  throat.  "I  haven't  gotten  a  suit 
in  America  in  twenty  years,"  he  said  weakly. 

I  saw  that  the  greatest  innovation  I  could  offer  Stanton 
Griffis  was  to  have  an  exact  copy  of  his  English  evening 
clothes  reproduced  on  Fifth  Avenue.  "Good  night,  Stanton," 
I  jumped  out  of  the  car  in  front  of  my  house.  "I'll  call  you  up 
about  it." 

I  checked  him  off  and  set  to  work  on  Paul  Cooley,  an  at- 
tractive young  man  from  Hartford.  Paul  was  most  enthusias- 
tic. He  has  no  inhibitions  of  any  kind.  He  even  scared  me.  He 


thought  that  he'd  like  a  ruffled  shirt  and  I  found  myself  about 
to  tell  him  that  men  didn't  wear  ruffles. 

We  repaired  to  Tony  Williams  in  the  Squibb  Building  to 
talk  it  all  over.  Tony,  I  may  add,  was  a  little  leery  of  my 
scheme.  I  spent  a  half  hour  there  and  during  that  time  Paul 
ordered  two  suits,  of  Tony's  more  or  less  conventional  cut. 
I  looked  at  my  watch.  It  was  time  to  get  back  to  Hawes  Inc. 
Paul  was  beginning  to  buy  a  third  suit. 

"I  have  to  get  along,  Paul.  I'll  do  you  some  sketches  and 
see  when  you  come  down  next  time,"  I  said  as  I  left  him  to 
Tony's  quiet  solicitude. 

My  tactics  were  wrong  somewhere,  I  decided,  and 
dropped  the  whole  business  of  men's  clothes  for  a  year  while 
Hawes  Inc.  began  to  really  flourish  in  definitely  returning 

I  did  not  forget,  however,  and  in  early  February  of  1937, 
I  decided  that  life  was  more  flourishing  and  more  easy  and  I 
would  start  in  again  on  my  men's  clothes. 

Now,  in  the  meantime,  big  things  had  been  happening  in 
the  field  of  men's  clothes.  Soft,  colored,  open  shirts  had  be- 
come masculine.  Dark  colored  evening  clothes  had  been  ac- 
cepted. The  Merchants  Tailor's  Association  had  come  to  life. 

They  invited  me  to  make  a  speech  to  them  in  December, 
1936.  Unfortunately,  I  always  retain  a  childish  faith  that  all 
aeroplanes  fly.  I  planned  to  come  back  from  Palm  Beach  one 
day  to  make  the  speech  that  night.  All  aeroplanes  do  not  fly 
in  the  winter.  So  I  missed  seeing  the  Association  in  the  flesh. 
But  I  see  their  works  in  print. 

The  gentlemen  have  an  idea.  It  is  very  simple.  It  is  that 
men  should  have  more  color  in  their  clothes.  Perhaps  it  is 
even  that  men  should  have  comfortable  clothes.  It  is  certain 
that  men  should  have  more  clothes.  Is  that  the  ugly  little  head 
of  Fashion  I  see  in  the  corner? 


Did  you  happen  to  notice  that  the  best  dressed  men  of 
America  were  chosen  in  1936?  Did  you  know  any  of  the 
men  chosen?  Did  you  hear  them  voice  their  dismay  and  ir- 
ritation? Well,  relax.  They  were  not  so  dismayed  at  heart. 
Men  aren't  any  different  from  women  after  all.  Several  of 
the  men  went  right  off  to  their  tailors  and  ordered  whole 
batches  of  new  suits,  realizing  that  they  must  keep  up  their 
public  acclaim. 

Don't  misunderstand  me,  I  see  no  reason  why  men  should 
be  any  different  from  women  about  their  clothes.  There  were 
many  many  years  when  men  wore  silks  and  satins  and  pinks 
and  blues  and  loved  it.  It  is  a  great  puzzlement  to  me  why, 
when  in  general  the  men  earn  the  family  budget,  it  can't  be 
divided  equally  where  the  clothing  section  comes  in. 

The  men  are  just  screaming  for  a  chance  to  break  down 
and  have  someone  take  an  interest  in  their  problems.  They 
are  so  eager  for  it  they  mostly  all  pretend  they  wouldn't  hear 
of  such  a  thing. 

When  you  talk  seriously  and  alone  to  a  member  of  the 
male  sex  on  the  matter  of  his  clothing,  he  becomes  quite 
coherent  and,  at  the  same  time,  is  apt  to  develop  all  the  pho- 
bias that  most  women  have  about  themselves. 

I  had  a  serious  talk  with  Tony  Williams  in  February, 
1937. 1  suggested  that  he  and  I  give  a  party  together  to  show 
my  clothes  and  his  clothes  and  that  we  add  to  the  party  some 
of  my  men's  designs.  I  then  pointed  out  that  I  could  not  go 
and  ask  men  to  buy  my  clothes  for  themselves  when  it  was  all 
experimental.  I  wanted  very  much  to  make  them  clothes  that 
they  would  like  to  wear,  but  whether  or  not  they  actually 
wore  them  after  they  got  them  mustn't  be  the  main  concern. 

I  couldn't  ask  the  men  to  support  me  to  my  experiment- 
ing. It  was  enough  to  make  them  my  victims.  Tony  agreed  to 


sacrifice  his  time  and  energy  and  money  to  the  future  and  I 
proceeded  to  do  likewise. 

My  victims  were  wonderful.  They  were  willing.  In  the 
beginning  they  were  amused.  In  the  end  they  were  entirely 
cooperative.  I  selected  a  dramatic  critic,  a  stage  designer,  a 
lawyer,  an  advertising  salesman,  a  young  man-about-town, 
and  a  dancer. 

The  plan  was  to  make  them  each  a  suit  of  my  design,  de- 
tails to  be  agreed  upon.  They  would  then  appear  at  a  private 
party  where  I  would  show  ladies'  clothes  and  Tony  some  of 
his  men's  clothes. 

On  the  basis  of  my  past  experience,  I  invited  them  all  to 
come  separately  to  talk  things  over  with  me,  at  my  house 
where  the  conservative  element  wouldn't  set  them  to  buying 
ordinary  suits  at  once  in  self-defense.  The  conversations  were 

One  of  the  gentlemen  said  that  he  thought  it  was  a  great 
mistake  to  consider  putting  men  into  gay  clothes.  Men,  he 
said,  were  a  background  for  women  and  should  remain  in 
that  position.  Well — at  least  in  the  instance  of  our  party,  he 
had  the  chance  to  see  what  it  feels  like  not  to  be  a  background. 

Another  victim  came  in  very  diffidently.  "I  don't  know 
why  you  want  me  to  do  this,"  he  said.  "I'm  awfully  messy  in 
my  clothes." 

My  eyes  fell  out  of  my  head.  "Everyone  says  you're 
probably  the  neatest  man  in  town,"  I  answered. 

"No,"  he  shook  his  head  sadly,  "I  am  not.  I  have  my 
suits  made  to  order.  I  go  from  tailor  to  tailor.  I  even  have  my 
shirts  made  to  order.  Nothing  does  any  good.  I  am  not  neat." 

Just  the  old  case  of  the  lady  who  persisted  in  thinking 
she  had  a  fanny.  It  didn't  matter  that  she  didn't  have  one.  She 
felt  as  if  she  had. 

The  dancer  simply  bellowed  at  me  when  I  phoned  him 


the  first  time.  He  was  in  the  habit  of  dancing  in  full  evening 
dress.  "There  is  nothing  wrong  with  the  clothes  I  dance  in!" 
he  shouted. 

"Why  don't  you  come  to  lunch?"  I  asked.  I  then  pre- 
pared myself  to  try  and  separate  him  just  a  tiny  little  way 
from  black  and  white  and  tails. 

I  suggested,  tentatively,  that  he  have  a  rust  suit.  This 
was  during  the  first  course.  I  was  wearing  a  fuchsia  sweater. 
He  had  red  hair.  Suddenly,  over  the  dessert,  he  looked  up 
with  a  bright  eye,  "Why  couldn't  my  jacket  be  that  color?" 
He  pointed  to  my  sweater. 

"Why,  I  didn't  think  ..."  I  began.  Joy  flooded  my 
heart.  Nothing  could  be  nicer  than  red  hair  and  fuchsia, 
they  are  so  perfectly  wonderfully  awful  together.  "Yes,  you 
could  if  you  really  want  to  wear  it." 

"I'm  a  dancer,"  he  said  assertively.  "I  can  wear  any- 

The  lawyer  was  a  man  after  my  own  heart,  one  of  my  old- 
est friends.  He  said,  "Make  me  anything  you  like  but  don't 
give  me  a  stiff  shirt."  I  might  add  that  the  lawyer  was  paying 
off  an  election  bet.  He  bet  me  anything  I  wanted  that  Roose- 
velt would  not  carry  New  York  State  in  1936. 

I  had  only  a  few  things  on  my  mind  in  doing  the  clothes. 
I  wanted  them  to  be  comfortable.  I  wanted  them  to  be  attrac- 
tive. I  wanted  to  bring  suspenders  out  into  the  open.  Con- 
stance Loudon,  my  assistant,  without  whom  there  would  not 
have  been  any  men's  clothes  because  I  got  the  flu  in  the  mid- 
dle of  it  all,  decided  that  she  wanted  to  see  men  in  skirts. 

"What  do  you  mean,  Connie?"  I  asked,  rising  feebly 
from  my  pillows.  "It  seems  to  me  trousers  are  quite  satisfac- 

Connie  held  up  a  little  rough  sketch.  There  was  a  big 
strong  man  in  a  fine  flowing  Arabian  Nights  robe.  It  was 


wonderful.  It  was  made  for  Tony  Williams  and  was,  I  think, 
by  all  odds  the  most  handsome  thing  in  the  show.  It  made  me 
quite  certain,  once  and  for  all,  that  for  being  alluring,  the 
skirt  is  the  thing  and  there  is  no  difference  between  the  sexes. 
It  was  the  kind  of  a  robe  Othello  probably  wore  when  he  was 
busy  killing  Desdemona.  Nobody  has  ever  thought  of  Shake- 
speare's Moor  as  anything  but  a  full-blooded  male. 

Men  and  women  are  quite  different  in  one  thing.  That's 
the  way  they  behave  while  fitting  their  clothes.  The  men  are 
wrong.  A  few  couturiers  to  relax  them,  and  they  would  real- 
ize their  mistake. 

Women  when  they  fit,  never  stand  still.  They  raise  their 
arms  and  fix  their  hair  when  you're  trying  to  get  the  length  of 
the  dress.  They  reach  for  a  cigarette  as  you  pin  in  a  sleeve. 
They  turn  and  crane  their  necks  to  see  who's  going  by  the 
door  while  you  are  arranging  the  neck  line.  It  makes  fitting 
very  difficult  but  it  has  its  good  point.  By  the  time  you've 
fitted  a  dress  on  a  woman,  you  know  how  she  stands,  walks, 
moves  and  what's  going  to  happen  to  your  dress  after  it 
leaves  the  fitting  room  for  public  life. 

The  men  simply  amazed  me  at  their  fittings.  The  instant 
they  entered  the  room,  they  assumed  a  positively  military 
carriage.  In  went  their  chins,  back  went  their  shoulders,  in 
went  their  tummies.  And  they  proceeded  to  hold  it  without  a 
breath,  without  a  movement,  until  the  fitting  was  finished. 

The  result  is,  obviously,  that  the  minute  they  get  wear- 
ing the  clothes  in  ordinary  life,  they  stand  entirely  differ- 
ently and  everything  falls  out  of  place.  The  matter  of  a  fitting 
isn't  just  the  ordinary  course  of  human  events  to  a  man.  It's 
a  ceremonial  occasion. 

When  the  last  man  had  been  gotten  to  his  last  fitting, 
which  was  quite  a  job  because  men  don't  make  fitting  ap- 
pointments like  women,  they  just  turn  up — after  they  had 


finally  turned  up,  for  the  last  times,  it  was  the  night  of  the 

I  may  say,  I  was  in  a  nervous  jitter.  Showing  clothes  in 
Paris  and  Russia  was  nothing  to  what  I  went  through  wonder- 
ing whether  the  men  would  finish  with  this  affair  we  had  all 
started.  I  did  not  have  them  to  rehearse  or  even  tell  them  in 
advance  what  I  hoped  they  would  do.  I  just  got  a  lady  for 
each  man  and  told  her  she  was  to  get  her  man  around  the 
rooms,  up  and  over  the  platforms.  She  was  not  to  let  him 
escape  except  over  her  dead  body. 

Then  I  sent  every  man  a  bottle  of  champagne  at  six 
o'clock,  and  got  dressed  to  receive  the  guests  at  ten.  Al- 
though I  did  my  best  to  keep  the  party  to  the  invited  num- 
ber, everyone  brought  a  friend  in  the  inimitable  New  York 
fashion.  It  was  quite  a  jam,  but  most  people  prefer  a 
jam  in  New  York. 

I  didn't  see  much  of  the  beginning  of  the  show.  Six 
gentlemen  appeared,  each  with  a  professional  model,  one 
pair  following  the  next.  The  gentlemen  wore  very  elegant 
and  more  or  less  conventional  clothes,  day  and  evening, 
made  for  them  by  Tony  Williams. 

The  professional  models,  like  my  lady  guest  stars  who 
were  later  to  get  my  men's  designs  over  the  bumps,  had 
been  told  not  to  let  any  man  escape.  The  only  gentleman 
who  decided  to  escape  was  Lucius  Beebe.  He  was  to  ap- 
pear in  a  simple  burgundy  tux  of  Tony  Williams'  design, 
accompanied  by  a  tall  and  very  lovely  blonde  model  who 
had  been  faithfully  working  for  me  for  a  couple  of  years. 

When  Mr.  Beebe  arrived  at  the  party,  he  decided  he 
wouldn't  show  after  all.  It  seemed  to  me  like  one  thing  too 
many  at  the  time,  but  also  nothing  to  get  into  an  argu- 
ment about.  I  instructed  the  model  to  go  out  alone  when 
the  time  came.  I  then  instructed  Harry  Bull  and  Gilbert 


Seldes,  the  announcers,  to  make  the  proper  introduction. 

When  the  blonde  model  floated  out  onto  the  first  platform 
from  between  the  blue  satin  curtains,  Mr.  Bull  said  in  a 
loud  clear  voice,  "This  is  'Act  of  God'  without  Lucius 
Beebe."  ("Act  of  God"  was  the  name  of  the  dress.) 

Mr.  Beebe  rose  to  his  feet  and  joined  the  act.  He  then 
decided  that  showing  in  one  room  was  enough  and  sat 
down  again.  The  model,  preceding  him,  suddenly  became 
aware  of  his  disappearance,  turned  around,  went  back  to 
his  chair,  took  a  firm  grip  on  his  arm  and  gracefully 
dragged  him  into  the  front  room. 

That  finished  the  first  act  of  the  show,  which  was  fol- 
lowed by  twenty  or  thirty  beautiful  girls  in  beautiful 
Hawes  dresses  in  the  customary  fashion  show  routine.  The 
only  dire  result  of  that  first  act  was  that  an  English  gentle- 
man who'd  been  modeling  a  tasty  plaid  town  suit  got  into 
the  models'  room  and  insisted  on  helping  the  girls.  I  finally 
dislodged  him  by  much  the  same  means  the  model  used  to 
get  Mr.  Beebe  to  his  feet. 

It  was  a  very  mixed-up  evening  for  me.  Little  things 
happened  constantly  like  the  English  gentleman — and  the 
fact  that  there  kept  being  no  drinks  in  the  gentlemen's  dress- 
ing room.  That  "dressing  room"  consisted  of  a  screen  in 
the  basement  which  was  quite  inadequate  and  added  noth- 
ing to  the  good  nature  of  my  guest  stars. 

The  final  formal  act  of  the  evening  was  my  lady  guest 
stars  and  gentlemen  guest  stars,  paired  off  together,  each 
in  an  elegant  Hawes  design.  After  casting  a  final  look  over 
them  in  the  dressing  room,  I  made  a  dash  up  to  the  top  of 
the  stairs  and  got  onto  a  chair  to  see  how  it  had  all  turned 
out.  Just  at  that  moment  there  was  a  terrific  crash. 

"The  bar  tipped  over,"  I  remember  remarking  to  my- 
self. Then  a  great  blast  of  cold  air  came  up  my  bare  back. 


It  was  a  welcome  feeling.  Something  to  breathe  besides  cig- 
arette smoke.  But  what — ?  I  learned  hopefully  toward  the 
first  platform,  deciding  the  solution  of  the  crash  would 
have  to  wait  until  I'd  seen  the  gentlemen  do  their  stuff . 

Came  the  stage  designer  .  .  .  blue  linen,  non-crushable 
linen,  trousers,  attached  with  brass  rings  to  the  striped  sus- 
penders which  went  over  a  natural-colored  and  also  non- 
crushable  linen  blouse,  the  blouse  zipped  up  the  front  with 
a  straight  attached  collar  which  could  be  zipped  shut  or 
left  open  as  low  as  the  heat  demanded.  "Something  to  work 
in  in  town  when  it's  hot  that  is  neat  enough  to  wear  for 
receiving  clients.  I  don't  want  to  have  to  put  on  my  coat," 
that's  what  he  wanted — and  wanted  me  to  make  a  coat  he 
could  wear  with  it!  I  refused  to  make  the  coat. 

The  dramatic  critic,  a  gentleman  who  thought  he  wasn't 
by  nature  neat,  came  through  the  curtains  looking  very 
neat  and  not  a  little  embarrassed,  carefully  letting  his  lady 
have  the  center  of  the  stage.  He  wore  a  green  linen  tunic, 
belted  and  with  a  zipper  up  the  front,  a  band  around  the 
neck,  which  could  be  zipped  up  or  left  open.  The  tunic 
went  with  some  heavy  gray  Chinese  silk  pants  which  had 
a  Lastex  band  to  hold  them  on,  thus  avoiding  both  the  tight 
belt  and  the  suspender.  The  whole  outfit  was  planned  for 
wearing  in  the  hot  summer.  It  was  just  about  as  light  as 

The  advertising  salesman  was  simply  clad  for  dinner 
at  home.  He  had  sailor  pants,  laced  in  back,  made  of  light 
weight,  fine  wale  corduroy,  and  a  sweat  shirt  of  striped  up- 
holstery linen.  My  lawyer's  Hawes  dinner  clothes  were  of 
bright  dark  blue  wool.  They  were  conventional  as  to  trouser. 
The  shirt  was  soft  white  silk,  made  like  a  dentist  blouse 
with  a  straight  band  at  the  neck,  buttoned  in  back,  no  tie. 
The  vest  was  diagonal  stripes,  and  the  coat  collarless  and 


cut  to  hang  open  in  front.  The  lawyer  is  amply  built.  He 
got  a  terrific  amount  of  applause  which  he  explained  to  me 
afterward  was  just  because  he  knew  so  many  people  in  the 
audience  but  I  think  it  was  really  because  he  appeared  to 
be  having  a  perfectly  wonderful  time. 

The  young-man-about-town  wore  black  faille  trousers 
which  were  strapped  under  his  pumps,  a  salmon-pink 
faille,  double-breasted,  waist-length  jacket,  and  a  white  silk 
shirt  and  stock,  formal  evening  clothes  and  they  looked  per- 
fectly swell. 

Tony  Williams  appeared  in  person  next,  accompan- 
ied by  his  wife  in  a  gray-blue  monk's  robe,  a  background 
for  the  Arabian  Nights  house  coat.  For  a  brief  moment  I 
wondered  whether  men  shouldn't  wear  skirts  all  the  time.  I 
find  they  have  a  great  desire  to  wear  togas,  incidentally. 

The  dancer  became  so  vague  and  artistic  during  the 
making  of  the  clothes  that  I  sent  a  special  gentleman  to 
see  that  he  ever  came  to  the  party.  He  kept  forgetting  his 
fittings  because  he  was  composing  a  new  dance  to  do  at  the 
Plaza  (yes,  it  was  Paul  Draper).  He  had  tight  plum 
trousers,  strapped  under  his  shoe,  a  short  gray-green  jacket 
zipped  up  the  front,  a  bright  pink  satin  neckerchief  which 
I  thought  looked  lovely  with  his  red  hair.  (He  didn't,  I 
believe,  share  my  passion.) 

Underneath  the  jacket  was  supposed  to  be  a  most  im- 
portant part  of  Mr.  Draper's  costume  .  .  .  suspenders  of 
rust  and  fuchsia  felt,  wide  on  the  shoulder  and  coming  to  a 
point  where  they  joined  the  trouser  .  .  .  and  there  should 
have  been  a  blue  knitted  shirt.  However,  it  all  got  so  rushed 
that  at  the  last  fitting,  the  blue  shirt  was  a  mess  and  I  just 
gave  him  my  own  fuchsia  sweater  to  wear.  It  fitted — quite 
tight  .  .  .  and  was  a  great  deal  too  short.  The  general  ef- 
fect was  fine  to  me  because  I  knew  what  it  was  supposed  to 


look  like.  It  must  have  seemed  a  touch  odd  to  the  audience. 

In  fact,  I  often  wonder  what  the  whole  thing  looked 
like  to  the  audience.  I  was  little  tired,  but  quite  pleased, 
as  I  saw  Mr.  Draper  abandon  his  lady  and  execute  a  few 
steps  without  benefit  of  tails  on  his  coat.  His  costume  was 
just  a  sketch  which  might  or  might  not  ultimately  be  real- 
ized, perfected,  by  me  or  someone  else. 

So  with  all  those  men's  designs:  shots  in  the  dark,  em- 
bryonic ideas,  the  suspender  exposed  and  handsome,  the 
extraneous  necktie  relegated  to  limbo,  the  stiff  collar  non- 
existent, the  vest  used  to  give  a  spot  of  color  and  some  line, 
thrown  out  as  just  an  extra  article  of  clothing,  silk  and 
cotton  and  linen  for  summer,  sweat  shirts  and  comfort  for 

I  don't  really  know  whether  any  of  those  cooperative 
angels  who  sacrificed  themselves  to  my  whims  ever  wear 
their  clothes.  Somehow,  it  isn't  terribly  important.  The  vital 
thing  to  me  was  that  I  just  had  a  chance  to  imagine  for  a  few 
minutes  that  men's  clothes  might  be  comfortable — that 
maybe  I  wouldn't  always  have  to  suffer  while  men  turned 
their  soft  necks  about  in  starched,  scratchy  linen;  that  some 
day  I'd  actually  see  hundreds  and  hundreds  of  men  going 
about  the  July  hot  streets  of  New  York  in  cool  linen  tunics 
and  silk  trousers;  that  maybe  one  day  the  women  would 
relax  and  enjoy  being  a  background  now  and  then  for  the 
gay  male  birds;  that  possibly  when  some  masculine  creature 
took  it  upon  himself  to  throttle  me  for  some  real  or  imag- 
inary sin,  instead  of  looking  up  and  having  my  last  living 
impression  a  dull  mud-like  uniformed  being,  I'd  see  won- 
derful rich  colors  and  hear  the  heavy  swish  of  rich  damask. 

My  visions  as  exemplified  at  the  party  lasted  a  short  ten 
minutes.  The  cold  air  poured  up  my  back  constantly  and 


the  crash  rang  in  my  head.  I  stepped  off  the  chair  and  de- 
scended the  stairs. 

In  the  entrance  hall  I  saw  a  flock  of  policemen  and  the 
Holmes  detective,  my  secretary,  who  had  been  checking 
people  in,  a  couple  of  surprised  looking  guests.  There  I 
saw  my  large  plate-glass  window  lying  in  little  pieces  on 
the  floor.  There  was  no  blood.  I  waved  my  hands  and  smiled 
a  little  and  everyone  slowly  melted  away  into  the  street.  I 
told  the  secretary  to  find  the  houseman  and  block  up  the 
window.  I  forgot  to  ask  what  had  happened. 

When  I  got  back  upstairs,  the  guests  were  rising.  Talk, 
talk,  talk.  Smoke,  Scotch  and  soda,  food,  photographers.  .  . 

About  an  hour  later  a  strange  man  came  up  to  me,  say- 
ing, "I'm  so  sorry.  Really,  I'm  terribly  embarrassed.  I 
hope  it  was  insured." 

Something  I  missed  happened,  I  thought.  "Oh,  yes, 
I'm  sure  it  was,"  I  answered. 

He  held  up  two  bandaged  fingers.  Light  dawned.  Once 
I  had  a  new  Afghan  hound,  unused  to  houses.  He  sprang 
full  force  at  the  plate-glass  window  while  I  held  my  breath 
and  waited  for  the  crash.  The  window  held. 

The  gentleman  with  the  two  bandaged  fingers  had  been 
in  a  hurry  to  get  to  the  party.  He  got  in  through  the  window. 

Parties  are  like  that.  Experimenting  is  like  that.  You 
never  know  until  a  long  time  after  just  what  happened.  Just 
what  happened  ...  to  the  men's  clothes?  Just  what  had 
happened  to  my  designing  bags  for  the  Smith  Co.?  What 
was  happening  to  Mr.  Postman's  gloves?  What,  now  in  the 
spring  of  1937,  was  happening  to  Hawes  Inc.? 


23    '    Lsar   (Competitive  QJvdtem 

WHAT  had  happened  to  Elizabeth  Hawes,  by  the  spring 
of  1937,  was  that  she  didn't  have  one  wholesale  job 
left  and  was  thanking  God  for  it.  Hawes  Inc.,  because  of  a 
reluctantly  returning  prosperity,  had  paid  back  all  past 


Miss  Hawes  had  her  third  and  apparently  thoroughly 
efficient  manager.  She  was  able  to  raise  her  salary  to  nearly 
half  what  most  people  thought  she  earned.  The  twenty-five 
percent  yearly  increase  in  sales  had  continued  unabated  for 
three  years.  Hawes  Inc.  was  paying  its  way  and  the  manager 
in  question  was  trying  hard  to  begin  laying  by  enough  cash 
to  see  it  through  the  next  depression!  I  was  not  only  an  Amer- 
ican eouturiere.  I  was  for  the  moment  a  solvent  one. 

And  so,  in  the  order  in  which  it  occurred,  let  me  check  off 
those  wholesale  jobs  which  haven't  checked  me  off  in  past 

In  the  summer  of  1935, 1  either  dropped  or  was  dropped 
by  the  Smith  Co.  Do  you  remember  that  once,  long  ago  in 
1932, 1  had  begun  to  tell  the  Smith  Co.,  "Not  stiff,  like  card- 
board, see?  Soft— Soft— SOFT." 

When  I  finally  parted  with  them,  three  years  later,  they 
were  beginning  to  make  a  few  soft  bags.  I  guess  they  found 
out  it  was  cheaper. 

The  story  of  the  Smith  Co.  is  just  the  old  fable  of  Box, 
Cox,  and  Nox.  There  were  once  three  bag  firms,  Smith  Co., 
Jones  &  Co.  and  Willy's.  The  backgrounds  of  the  three  firms 
were  identical.  They  all  made  expensive  copies  of  the  same 
French  bags.  They  all  made  a  living  at  it.  Smith  sold  his  bags 
to  Altman.  Jones  sold  his  bags  to  Best.  Willy  sold  his  bags  to 
Lord  and  Taylor. 

Somebody  undid  a  screw  in  the  stock  market  in  1929  and 
it  all  fell  down.  Smith  and  Jones  and  Willy  all  found  they 
weren't  doing  enough  business  to  keep  alive.  Smith,  as  we 
have  seen,  decided  to  get  an  American  Designer. 

Jones  decided  to  go  to  Connecticut  where  he  could  run 
a  non-union  shop,  wages  could  be  lower,  and  he  could  keep 
on  copying  French  bags  but  at  a  cheaper  rate.  Willy  decided 


he'd  stop  buying  French  models.  Going  to  Paris  was  expen- 
sive and  he  could  steal  all  the  designs  he  needed. 

Smith  promoted  Elizabeth  Hawes  bags  all  over  the 
United  States  and  it  looked  cheery  at  first.  In  1933  he  found, 
however,  that  no  store  wanted  to  pay  him  more  than  $4.50 
wholesale  for  a  bag  and  his  bags  were  still  well  made  and 
sold  for  $7.50. 

Jones  found  that,  although  his  Connecticut  shop  was  non- 
union, several  other  people  were  making  French  bags  in 
Connecticut  and  doing  it  cheaper.  Willy  found  that  he 
couldn't  run  a  shop  in  New  York  profitably  even  by  stealing 

All  three  of  them  saw  that  they  must  now  manufacture 
bags  to  sell  at  $4.50.  Smith  cheapened  down  all  the  Hawes 
designs  until  they  were  merely  envelopes.  Still  he  couldn't 
make  any  money. 

Jones  cheapened  all  his  bags  in  Connecticut,  but  the 
union  found  him  there  and  he  had  to  move  to  Pennsylvania. 
So  he  didn't  make  any  money  in  1933. 

Willy  made  a  little  money  in  1933.  He  moved  to  Con- 
necticut, became  non-union,  and  continued  to  steal  his  de- 

In  1934,  Smith  Co.  decided  to  move  to  Connecticut  to 
avoid  paying  union  wages.  Jones  was  safely  settled  in  Penn- 
sylvania. He  made  a  little  money.  Willy  got  caught  by  the 
union  in  Connecticut  and  moved  to  Pennsylvania,  so  he  lost 
a  little  money  that  year. 

When  1935  hove  upon  the  horizon,  they  all  said  to  them- 
selves, "This  year  business  will  be  good."  So  they  took  a 
deep  breath  and  made  a  lot  of  bags  in  anticipation  of  big 
orders.  Anyway,  it  is  cheaper  to  make  a  lot  of  bags  at  once 
instead  of  filling  small  orders  as  they  come  in. 

The  orders  didn't  come  on  the  stock  they'd  made  up. 


Everyone  liked  the  second  lines  of  bags  they  showed  later  in 
the  season.  They  all  closed  out  their  early  stock  at  a  loss. 
They  grimly  looked  out  the  window.  They  saw  the  union 
coming  over  the  horizon.  "Damn  it,"  they  said.  "How  is  a 
man  to  keep  going?  Here  I  am  losing  money  and  the  union  is 
coming  in  here  to  try  and  make  me  pay  more  than  $12  a 
week!  What  is  more,  my  employes  work  48  weeks  in  the 

"But  Mr.  Smith,  Mr.  Jones,  Willy.  That  only  makes 
$576  a  year.  How  would  you  like  to  bring  up  a  family  on 
that?"  ' 

"Yes,  yes,  yes.  It  is  a  terrible  thing.  Outrageous  of 
course.  I  feel  terribly  sorry  for  my  employes,  but  what  can 
a  man  do?" 

So  Mr.  Smith  finally  became  divested  of  Miss  Hawes  and 
took  up  French  designs  again.  Mr.  Jones  decided  to  have  a 
union  shop,  make  expensive  bags,  and  hire  Muriel  King  to 
design  for  him.  Willy  suddenly  remembered  that  he  had 
been  an  expert  bagmaker  once  and  he  found  that  the  union 
wages  were  $75  a  week.  He  returned  to  the  bench.  There  was 
a  scarcity  of  expert  men  to  make  sample  bags.  He  worked 
52  weeks  and  made  $3,900  in  1935.  Of  course,  he  wasn't  his 
own  boss.  He  only  had  to  work  a  35-hour  week. 

Unfortunately,  not  only  these  three  gentlemen  were  en- 
gaged in  the  bag  business,  but  hundreds  of  others.  All  of 
them  went  through  the  same  thing.  All  of  them  are  still  go- 
ing through  it.  Apparently  they  will  always  go  through  it. 
Every  time  a  Willy  saves  up  a  thousand  dollars  as  an  expert 
sample  maker,  he  sets  up  for  himself.  It  doesn't  take  much 
machinery  or  overhead  to  run  a  bag  business. 

So  sadly  enough,  after  five  years  of  it  all,  I  decided  only 
a  miracle  resulting  in  the  death  of  seventy-five  per  cent  of  all 


American  bag  businesses  would  put  the  Smith  Co.  in  a  posi- 
tion to  settle  on  a  definite  policy  and  go  ahead  with  it. 

One  year  our  conferences  would  all  consist  in  their  ex- 
planations of  why  they  must  make  cheaper  bags.  The  next 
year  we  would  spend  three  months  wondering  whether  they 
had  been  right.  The  year  after,  we  decided  to  have  ten  ex- 
pensive bag  designs  and  ten  cheap  ones.  The  next  day,  they 
thought  five  expensive  ones  and  fifteen  cheap  ones  would  be 
better.  The  next  day,  it  was  fifteen  expensive  bags  and  five 
cheap  ones. 

I  almost  lost  my  mind.  So  did  my  first  assistant  designer, 
Dorothy  Zabriskie.  So  did  Connie  Loudon,  my  next  assist- 
ant designer.  I  felt  we  should  plan  the  designs  for  the  cheap 
bags  so  they  would  come  out  cheap  to  begin  with.  Otherwise, 
the  Plain  Smith  just  did  something  to  the  first  bag  which  cut 
the  cost  in  half  and  turned  it  into  a  pouch  with  three  pin 

It  would  be  unfair  to  say  the  Smith  Co.  did  not  care 
about  what  the  public  wanted.  They  hired  me  to  tell  them. 
Whatever  I  told  them,  they  suspected  of  being  untrue.  I  could 
never  prove  it  because  if  the  idea  already  existed,  there  was 
no  use  of  their  making  it.  We  went  to  the  mat  on  the  matter 
of  boxes  one  spring.  They  said  no.  We  said  yes.  After  three 
years,  I  gave  in  to  them  quite  easily.  I  liked  them  but  I  got 
tired  of  listening  to  them  straighten  out  their  affairs  and 
then  unstraighten  them. 

Repeatedly  we  urged  them  to  do  things,  like  the  boxes, 
which,  sure  enough,  came  out  of  Paris  a  few  months  later. 
The  bag  business  has  its  own  little  Zeitgeist.  If  you  are  deal- 
ing directly  with  women,  you  find  yourself  having  that  funny 
feeling  that  if  you  only  had  boxes  this  spring  instead  of  bags, 
they'd  all  be  delighted. 

I  wanted  the  Smith  Co.  to  make  expensive  bags  for  me  to 


sell  at  Hawes  Inc.,  to  let  me  test  out  my  odd  notions  on  my 
clients  at  those  top  prices  which  special  orders  cost  and  which 
Hawes  customers  can  pay.  They  said  yes,  year  after  year. 
Then  their  sample  maker  never  had  time  to  make  the  special 
things  and  as  their  bags  got  cheaper  they  lost  interest  in  mak- 
ing expensive  ones. 

My  arrangement  was  that  any  bag  design  I  sold  at  Hawes 
Inc.  belonged  to  me  for  a  season.  Once  or  twice  when  we  did 
get  a  good  bag  from  them,  and  began  to  order,  order,  order 
on  it,  they  suddenly  lost  their  self-restraint  and  made  a  cheap 

Then  they  would  call  me  down  and  say,  "Look,  Miss 
Hawes.  We  can  make  this  bag  for  $5.50.  Yours  costs  $12.50. 
We  have  just  changed  the  leather  and  the  lining  and  left  out 
one  pleat.  It  looks  about  the  same."  It  would  look  just  enough 
the  same  to  make  you  sick.  "Now,  Miss  Hawes,"  they  would 
continue,  "we  could  get  an  order  tomorrow  for  four  dozen 
of  these  bags  from  Best's.  You'd  make  your  commission."  I 
worked  on  a  retaining  fee  and  a  commission.  "You  wouldn't 
stop  us  from  selling  it?  We  haven't  made  a  cent  here  since 

I  always  weakened.  I  don't  know  to  this  day  whether  they 
made  any  money  or  not.  After  they  took  the  factory  out  of 
town  to  avoid  the  union,  Plain  Smith  dropped  a  remark  one 
day  which  sort  of  set  me  thinking.  He  said,  "Of  course,  we 
didn't  show  any  profit  this  season."  Then  he  brightened  up, 
after  I  had  agreed  to  work  a  little  less  for  much  less  money. 
"I  did  show  a  profit  on  the  out-of-town  factory,  though,"  he 
said,  as  he  took  up  his  hat  to  leave. 

Oh,  well.  I  was  fond  of  the  Smith  brothers.  They  were 
like  little  fish  caught  in  a  net,  partly  of  their  own  weaving 
mostly  just  the  inevitable  result  of  our  great  competitive  sys- 


tern.  It  had  not  made  very  rugged  individualists  out  of  the 

Naturally  enough,  the  most  flourishing  bag  business  in 
New  York  is  Koret.  Only  a  few  months  ago  Mr.  Delman  of 
the  shoes  was  showing  me  around  his  factory.  "Couldn't  you 
make  bags?"  I  asked. 

"Golly,"  he  said,  "Mr.  Goodman  (of  Bergdorf  Good- 
man) asks  me  that  every  day.  He  says  Koret  is  the  only  bag 
man  who  makes  good  soft  bags.  He's  becoming  so  independ- 
ent nobody  can  do  anything  with  him." 

"And  why  shouldn't  Mr.  Koret  be  independent?"  I  said 
to  myself.  He  is  a  gentleman  whom  I  have  never  met,  but  I 
feel  sure  he  has  guts.  He  built  up  his  business  through  the  de- 
pression. He  advertised  himself,  yes.  His  ads  don't  lie.  He 
makes  as  good  a  bag  as  you  can  buy  wholesale,  I  think.  The 
leather  is  good.  The  linings  are  good.  The  style  is  generally 
good.  I  am  not  sure  whether  he  copies  French  bags.  If  he 
does,  he  changes  them  enough  to  cut  out  the  competition.  He 
does  make  bags  of  his  own  design. 

Probably  he  was  lucky  in  being  able  to  build  from  the 
bottom  when  times  were  bad,  just  as  I  was.  Undoubtedly  he 
is,  or  he  hires,  an  excellent  manager  and  actually  knows 
ahead  of  time  what  bags  are  going  to  cost  him.  Almost  no 
wholesaler  knows  what  it  really  costs  to  make  anything. 

At  any  rate,  Koret  started  making  and  kept  on  making 
bags  of  good  quality.  He  didn't  dither  around  much.  He 
wasn't  frightened  about  what  he  was  to  design.  He  must  run 
a  union  shop  and  pay  a  decent  wage  because  he  is  too  well 
known  to  escape  being  caught  if  he  didn't. 

Probably  he'll  go  under  in  the  next  depression  because 
his  overhead  will  be  too  big,  the  depression  will  be  worse, 
he'll  cut  his  price  and  his  quality.  However,  I  must  say,  in 
this  day  and  age,  among  all  the  businesses  I  have  touched,  of 


which  bags  is  only  one,  it  is  only  the  rugged  individualist 
who  wins  at  all.  He  manages  to  place  himself  outside  the 
competitive  field  in  some  way,  never  by  price,  usually  by 
quality  and  style.  He  does  not  just  whirl  endlessly  on  the 
merry-go-round  of  wholesale  competition. 

After  Plain  Smith  made  the  remark  to  me  about  making 
money  on  his  out-of-town  factory,  I  never  had  quite  my  old 
feeling  about  the  Smith  Co.  They  were  caught  in  a  net, 
yes.  They  were  being  successful  in  escaping  the  union  that 
year.  But  I  saw  that  forever  and  ever  they,  as  indecisive  in- 
dividuals, would  be  going  around  and  around  on  the  com- 
petitive merry-go-round. 

The  results  of  our  bag  designing  for  the  Smiths  were  far 
more  unsatisfactory  to  me  than  to  them.  I  can't — I  can't — 
bear  badly  made  things  of  poor  quality.  I  can't  hire  assist- 
ant designers  and  send  them  out  month  after  month  to  try 
and  deal  with  manufacturers  who  are  going  to  break  their 
hearts  by  leaving  all  the  lines  out  of  the  design  and  making  it 
in  another  leather. 

The  Smith  Co.  contract  was  just  quietly  not  renewed  in 
July,  1936.  By  this  time  they  have  probably  been  forced  to 
move  from  Connecticut  to  Pennsylvania.  They  have  prob- 
ably bought  French  bags  and  stopped  buying  them.  They 
may  have  another  American  Designer  working  for  them.  I 
wish  her  joy  of  it. 

I  withdrew  from  my  Postman  glove  job  with  far  greater 
regret.  Mr.  Postman's  partner  didn't  believe  in  promotion  of 
any  kind.  Mr.  P.  had  been  overpaying  me  in  any  case.  At 
first  I  thought  I  would  try  to  design  and  promote  for  him.  I 
thought  that  in  some  way  I  could  arrange  to  promote  nice 
simple  designs  and  made  a  contract  to  do  just  ten  gloves  for 
them  and  to  see  that  they  were  promoted. 

One  day  when  I  was  talking  to  a  girl  about  doing  the  ac- 


tual  work  on  the  promotion  under  my  aegis,  I  suddenly  got 
sick  of  the  whole  idea.  The  same  old  Hoop-la  to  be  gone 
through  once  more.  Would  they  advertise,  how  much  would 
they  advertise? 

What  was  she  going  to  be  able  to  get  into  the  papers? 
Would  it  all  have  to  be  about  me  and  not  about  the  gloves  at 
all?  What  would  the  fashion  magazines  do? 

If  I  want  to  help  Postman  promote  his  gloves,  I  am  faced 
with  two  equally  inevitable  duties.  I  must  make  him  adver- 
tise somewhat  in  the  better  fashion  magazines  or,  no  matter 
how  good  the  gloves  are,  no  matter  how  bright  my  idea,  we 
will  get  into  the  editorial  pages  not  more  than  once  a  year, 
maybe  twice,  very  small.  Second,  I  must  think  up  some 
bright  news  stories  about  gloves  so  they  will  be  news  and 
that  either  means  some  silly  idea  or  that  I,  Hawes,  actually 
take  the  publicity  on  my  own  head  and  electrify  the  world 
with  my  thoughts  on  the  glove  business. 

The  only  electrifying  thing  I  can  say  about  the  glove  de- 
signing is  that  ninety  percent  of  it  is  awful!  I  bet  Mr.  Post- 
man's partner  wouldn't  appreciate  that. 

So,  in  the  fall  of  1936,  I  took  a  leave  of  absence  from 
Mr.  Postman  and  gloves.  I  may  go  back  to  it  because  he  re- 
mains for  me  the  most  honest  and  upstanding  individual  I 
have  so  far  met  in  the  wholesale  field.  I  would  rather  like 
to  make  the  world  know  that  Mr.  Postman  makes  the  best 
gloves  they  can  buy,  because  I  know  that  he  doesn't  lie  or 
cheat  on  his  leather  and  workmanship. 

He  is  up  against  that  same  old  devil  of  competition  and 
more  or  less  forced  to  be  a  "fence"  for  that  foul  thief  Fash- 
ion. There  is  one  and  only  one  way  of  beating  those  two :  turn 
out  a  good  and  individual  product  and  tell  the  world.  Telling 
the  world  can  be  so  expensive,  one  wonders  whether  it  is 
worth  while.  Great  numbers  of  one's  competitors  are  busy 


cutting  things  with  no  seams  and  using  fake  leather,  saving 
enough  to  be  able  to  tell  the  world  anything  and  having  some 
left  over  for  profit.  Slowly,  slowly,  the  individual  manufac- 
turer is  caught  in  the  net.  Almost  inevitably  he  begins  to 
chisel  on  quality  for  the  purpose  of  competing  on  price. 

When  I  ran  into  the  men's  field,  I  thought  to  myself,  here, 
at  least,  Fashion  is  not  involved.  Here  one  should  be  able  to 
turn  out  a  good  product  at  a  fair  price.  Here  is  not  instability 
and  constant  change. 

The  first  result  of  the  men's  clothing  jamboree  was  a 
slight  pin  prick  of  irritation. 

A  month  after  the  party,  about  which  there  wasn't  much 
press  in  New  York  because  I  did  my  best  to  keep  my  promise 
and  make  it  private,  but  about  which  there  was  a  spread  of 
national  press  because  the  A.P.  was  present,  Hart  Schaffner 
and  Marx  had  five  people  call  me  and  ask  me  to  see  them. 

I  reflected  on  all  the  letters  I'd  gotten  after  the  American 
Magazine  sketches.  I  thought  of  all  the  boys  pining  for 
Hawes  shirts.  I  was  delighted  to  see  Hart  S.  and  M. 

A  very  high-powered  gentleman  turned  up  in  my  office. 
"We  are  going  to  have  a  Fiftieth  Anniversary,"  he  told  me. 


"We  want  to  show  clothes  from  fifty  years  ago,  clothes  of 
today,  and  clothes  for  fifty  years  from  now." 

I  began  to  get  a  gleam.  I  set  my  jaw  slightly. 

"We  would  like  to  use  your  clothes  for  the  latter  part," 
he  told  me. 

"The  clothes  belong  to  the  gentlemen  for  whom  they  were 
made,"  I  answered,  stalling. 

"Couldn't  you  borrow  them  back?" 

"Do  you  think  they're  for  fifty  years  from  now?" 

"Well,  we  realize  that  they  are  very  unusual.  .  .  ." 


"What  are  you  going  to  pay  me?"  I  got  to  that  point 

"Oh,  we  thought  it  would  be  good  press  for  you.  We  can 
get  them  into  the  movies." 

"I  can  get  press  for  myself.  Why  do  you  want  to  get  press 
on  things  if  you  think  nobody  wants  them  and  you  can't  sell 
'em?"  I  was  furious. 

"Well,  we  thought  you  might  like  to  have  them  in  the 
movies,"  he  was  getting  quite  austere  himself. 

"I'm  not  interested  in  doing  anything  merely  for  the  sake 
of  the  press  and  you  shouldn't  be  either.  Some  of  the  things 
could  sell,  others  not.  I  am  not  interested  in  talking  about 
them  on  any  other  basis." 

"Of  course,  if  that's  the  way  you  feel  .  .  .  ,"  he  rose. 

"That  is  the  way  I  feel.  Goodbye." 

I  felt  sick  really.  I  felt  better  almost  right  away  because 
one  of  my  pet  things  was  the  tunic  I  made  for  the  dramatic 
critic.  My  finished  version  was  not  perfect  by  any  means,  but 
the  idea  was  there,  the  idea  that  men  could  be  just  as  cool  and 
undressed  on  the  summer  streets  of  New  York  as  their  wives. 

The  very  next  summer,  the  male  tunic  began  to  appear. 
Not  my  tunic  and  none  of  my  doing.  But  soft  knitted  shirts 
shown  to  be  worn  outside  the  trousers.  Of  course,  they  could 
be  worn  inside.  Of  course  there  was  no  way  to  hold  up  the 
trouser  except  a  belt  or  any  ugly  suspender.  Still,  I  felt  vin- 

The  little  germ  of  tunics  was  planted.  If  Hart  S.  and  M. 
had  felt  like  investing  a  few  pennies,  a  few  hundred  men 
would  have  bought  tunics  in  1936.  The  next  year,  a  few  more 
men  would  buy  them.  Presently  many  many  men  would  be 
comfortably  clad  in  the  heat. 

And  out  of  the  men's  clothes  show  came  another  small 
experience.  Just  another  ray  of  light  on  the  clothing  business. 


First  I  was  having  fun  with  my  men's  clothes.  Then  Hart 
Schaffner  and  Marx  dragged  in  their  promotion  idea.  Also, 
the  Merchant  Tailors,  I  admit,  gave  me  some  pause.  But,  by 
and  large,  I  am  somehow  relying  on  chance  to  thwart  Fashion 
in  the  men's  field.  Chance  in  the  guise  of  the  spoiled  Ameri- 
can woman  and  her  over-balanced  clothing  budget,  chance  in 
the  shape  of  the  masculine  tradition,  refusing  change  stol- 
idly, stupidly. 

It  is  interesting  to  note  that  changes  in  men's  style  come 
from  the  lower  classes.  I  was  interested  in  Hart  Schaffner 
and  Marx  and  the  readers  of  the  American  Magazine  because 
I  felt  they  appealed  to  a  quantity  market.  Perhaps  Sears, 
Roebuck  would  be  the  best  bet  of  all  for  introducing  some- 
thing new  to  American  men. 

In  the  field  of  male  attire,  one  realizes  very  sharply  the 
class  distinctions  in  American  life.  The  women,  a  majority 
dressed  in  mass-produced  French  interpretations,  slide 
rather  easily  from  top  to  bottom  of  the  social  scale,  all 
dressed  more  or  less  alike,  mostly  all  looking  for  some  good 
man  to  support  them. 

The  economic  foundations  of  our  society  are  upheld  by 
men.  One  of  the  emblems  of  the  upper  class  male  is  his  "cor- 
rect" clothing.  When  a  young  man  achieves  a  dress  suit,  then 
he  has  reached  the  top.  He  can  go  about  without  being 
spotted  for  an  underling.  He  can,  in  his  opinion,  consort  with 
bankers  on  their  own  level. 

The  well-cut  sack  suit,  the  neatly  buttoned  vest,  the  som- 
ber tie,  are  emblems  of  success  and  responsibility  in  the 
business  world.  It  will  never  be,  it  is  not,  easy  to  get  upper- 
class  men  to  shed  their  birthright  in  clothes. 

It  is  the  prerogative  of  the  working  man,  the  lower  class 
guy,  to  wear  no  collar  and  no  tie.  He  may  go  without  a  hat  if 
he  likes.  He  can  wear  loose,  unpleated  blue  jeans.  He  can 


show  his  suspenders  if  he  wants.  He  can  go  shirtless  in  the 
hot  summer,  the  straps  of  his  overalls  barely  covering  his 
hairy  chest. 

He  is  thereby  marked  "unsuccessful."  He  is  not  admitted 
to  the  best  clubs,  nor  even  allowed  to  ride  up  in  the  elevator 
of  the  Squibb  Building  without  a  coat.  He  is  hired  for  what- 
ever wage  is  necessary  in  a  competitive  labor  market. 

Competing  in  that  labor  market,  he  may,  as  the  saying 
goes,  "have  nothing  to  lose  but  his  chains."  By  virtue  of  that 
fact,  in  the  field  of  clothing,  he  has  nothing  to  risk  by  being 

His  boss  will  not  look  askance  if  he  turns  up  in  sandals 
in  the  summer.  He  will  not  be  fired  for  choosing  to  wear  no 
collar  to  work.  Through  him  have  come  the  changes  of  style 
of  the  last  few  years  in  men's  clothes. 

He,  the  worker,  was  the  first  to  wear  soft,  knitted  shirts, 
open  at  the  neck.  He  has  for  years  worn  bright  striped  sweat- 
ers and  loud  checked  suits  if  he  felt  like  it.  The  Negroes  in 
Harlem  have  been  wearing  wonderful  colored  suits  for 
years,  light  blues,  bright  greens,  stripes  of  orange  and  rust. 

Now  the  graduates  of  Yale  and  Harvard  and  Oxford  are 
discovering  that  they,  too,  can  be  comfortable  in  soft  shirts, 
gay  in  loud  plaids  and  stripes.  They  are  discovering  it 
slowly,  gingerly.  Their  fathers  are  not  interested.  Their 
fathers  are  interested  in  maintaining  the  status  quo,  cor- 
rectly clothed  for  that  task. 

Anatole  France  said  that  if  he  could  have  any  one  book 
one  hundred  years  after  he  was  dead  which  would  tell  him 
the  most  about  what  was  going  on  in  the  world,  he  would  take 
a  book  of  fashion.  If  he  were,  right  now,  to  examine  the 
clothing  of  gentlemen  and  ladies  in  America,  he  would  find 
a  certain  leveling  process  going  on,  a  drawing  together  of  the 
upper  and  lower  strata. 


This,  gentlemen,  should  give  you  something  to  consider 
before  you  throw  your  hats  over  the  posts  forever.  Presently, 
if  you  are  not  careful,  one  will  not  be  able  to  distinguish  the 
boss  from  the  worker. 

You  may  now,  Mr.  Anatole  France,  distinguish  them  by 
their  suspenders.  With  all  the  enthusiasm  of  a  child,  I  de- 
cided that  suspenders  should  be  brought  out  into  the  open. 

With  all  the  stubbornness  of  the  artist,  I  said  that  suspen- 
ders should  be  an  aesthetic  delight.  With  my  humanitarian 
spirit  raring  to  go,  I  became  convinced  that  suspenders  were 
hygienic  and  that  all  men  should  wear  them. 

I  therefore  acquired  a  job  to  design  suspenders,  just 
after  the  men's  fashion  show,  in  the  spring  of  1937. 1  made 
my  contact  through  a  friend.  I  made  a  very  bad  money  ar- 
rangement because  I  wanted  to  do  the  suspenders.  I  signed, 
sealed  and  delivered  myself,  my  name,  and  all  my  promo- 
tional possibilities  to  the  Park  Suspender  Co.  for  $500  cash 
and  a  small  royalty. 

One  thousand  dollars  in  cash  is  supposed  to  be  the  least 
that  can  be  involved  where  the  Hawes  name  is  seen  in  the  ad- 
vertising of  any  other  firm.  I  bowed  my  head  before  this 
enormous  necessity  I  felt  to  make  the  suspender  an  outdoor 
and  beautiful  object. 

Before  any  money  changed  hands,  I  went  to  look  over 
the  Park  "line."  Previous  to  designing  my  men's  clothes  I 
did  a  great  deal  of  research  in  the  matter  of  suspenders.  I  be- 
came firmly  convinced  that  wide  suspenders  were  more  com- 
fortable than  narrow  ones.  The  narrow  suspender  cuts  the 

None  of  the  gentlemen  to  whom  I  talked  had  ever  worn 
anything  but  wide,  woven  suspenders.  They  complained  that 
it  was  very  difficult  to  get  nice  ones.  A  number  of  them  got 
their  suspenders  by  the  dozen  at  20  cents  a  pair  since  these 


were  no  more  ugly  than  the  $2.50  variety  and  $5  is  a  lot 
for  a  suspender.  If  you're  particular,  of  course  you  have  a 
pair  of  suspenders  for  every  pair  of  trousers. 

The  Park  Suspender  Co.  said  that  almost  all  their 
"braces"  sold  for  $1.50  but  that,  as  times  were  getting  bet- 
ter, I  could  make  them  for  $2.50  if  necessary.  They  could 
cheapen  them  later.  I  agreed  to  all  this.  I  have  no  objection  to 
anything  being  cheap  if  it's  right. 

When  I  looked  at  the  line,  they  kept  showing  me  elastic 
suspenders  about  a  half  inch  wide  with  clips  on  the  bottom 
to  clip  onto  the  trousers.  "What  are  these?"  I  asked. 

"These  are  $1.50,"  they  said. 

"I  mean,  why  are  they  so  narrow?" 

"That  is  the  width  that  all  men  now  prefer,"  they  assured 

"This  is  contrary  to  all  my  research,"  I  answered. 

"You  have  been  talking  to  the  wrong  people,"  they  told 
me  very  firmly. 

"Don't  these  clips  tear  the  trouser?"  I  asked. 

"Never,"  they  answered. 

"Is  it  absolutely  necessary  to  make  them  all  in  such  ugly 

"Oh,  no,  we  expect  you  to  fix  that." 

I  picked  up  a  pair  of  the  elastic  horrors  and  examined 
the  clip.  It  was  just  wide  enough  to  hold  the  half  inch  elastic. 
"Could  you  make  these  clips  wider?" 

"But  of  course.  Those  are  narrow  because,  naturally,  it 
is  cheaper  to  make  narrow  suspenders." 

"Oh,  it's  cheaper  to  make  narrow  suspenders?" 


"Then  it  isn't  that  all  men  want  them?" 

"All  men  want  narrow  suspenders,  Miss  Hawes." 

I  decided  I'd  better  do  a  little  more  research.  Maybe  I 


had  been  talking  to  the  wrong  men.  I  searched  about  until  I 
found  some  men  with  narrow  suspenders. 

"Why  have  you  got  on  narrow  suspenders?"  I  asked. 

"Because  that's  all  we  can  buy  for  $1.50."  They  said. 
(They  didn't  know  about  the  5  &  10! ) 

"Do  you  like  elastic  suspenders?"  I  continued. 

"Certainly  not,"  they  answered.  "They  catch  in  our 
shirts  and  wrinkle  them  up.  They  are  an  invention  of  the 
devil.  But  if  you  have  to  wear  narrow  suspenders,  elastic  is 
the  only  kind  that  doesn't  cut  you  to  pieces." 

"How  do  you  like  clips  on  the  ends  of  your  braces?" 

"They  tear  our  pants,"  they  responded,  "but  an  awful  lot 
of  suspenders  are  made  that  way  now." 

"What  kind  of  suspenders  would  you  really  like  to 
wear?"  I  inquired. 

"Wide  woven  suspenders,"  came  back  the  inevitable  an- 

Now,  perhaps  $2.50  is  the  least  money  for  which  a  wide 
woven  suspender  can  be  made.  I  doubt  it,  because  there  is  the 
5  &  10,  but  the  Park  Co.  more  or  less  assured  me  of  it.  I  had 
visualized  a  promotion  campaign  of  Hawes  suspenders 
which  would  first  give  the  world  handsome  designs,  such 
that  gentlemen  would  go  about  tearing  off  their  coats  to  show 
off  their  suspenders. 

Next,  if  such  suspenders  really  had  to  cost  $2.50,  I  had 
an  idea  that  a  little  straight  talking  would  convince  a  good 
many  men  to  spend  that  vast  sum  for  an  article  of  clothing 
which  they  wear  every  day  of  their  lives,  on  which  a  great 
deal  of  their  comfort  is  dependent,  and  which  should  be  ex- 
tremely durable. 

Lovely  as  it  may  be  to  have  a  pair  of  suspenders  for 
every  suit,  it  is  not  a  vital  necessity.  The  enormous  expendi- 
ture of  $5  a  year  for  comfort  and  beauty  in  two  pairs  of 

braces  ought  not  to  be  too  much  for  the  great  middle  class 

But,  before  I  ever  began  my  job  for  Park,  I  saw  that  I 
was  undoubtedly  beaten,  not  by  Fashion,  as  in  the  women's 
field,  but  by  simple  economics.  The  Park  Co.  would  never  let 
me,  even  in  my  best  New  Yorker  style,  tell  the  world  that 
narrow  suspenders  were  not  what  all  men  wanted  and  that  I 
knew  it  and  so  here  were  some  wide  ones. 

The  Park  Co.  would  insist  on  quibbling  because  they 
wouldn't  want  to  spoil  the  sale  of  their  narrow  elastic  sus- 
penders with  clips.  And  what  made  matters  worse,  the  Park 
Suspender  Co.  also  manufactured  belts.  Therefore,  it  could 
not  be  said  aloud  that  suspenders  were  more  comfortable 
and  hygienic  than  belts,  because  it  might  make  the  belt  sales 
go  off. 

Therefore  the  Park  Suspender  Co.,  having  hired  me  for 
however  little,  to  make  a  big  noise  about  beautiful  com- 
fortable suspenders,  would  simply  end  by  saying  in  a  small 
voice,  "Here  are  some  wide  and  beautiful  and  comfortable 
suspenders  which  Elizabeth  Hawes,  that  smart  young  girl, 
has  gotten  up  to  replace  all  belts.  You  can  buy  them  if  you 
like  them.  Of  course,  we  highly  recommend  to  you  our  nar- 
row elastic  suspenders  which  are  cheaper.  We  don't  really 
believe  suspenders  have  to  be  wide  at  all,  and  God  knows, 
we  don't  care  what  they  look  like.  What  is  more,  we  think 
belts  are  wonderful  and  here  are  some  of  the  most  wonderful 

ones  we  ever  saw." 

I  shut  my  eyes  and  visualized  the  Park  Suspender  Co. 
trying  very  hard  to  make  the  public  swallow  all  my  wide 
beautiful  woven  suspenders  and  all  their  narrow  elastic 
ones,  together  with  thousands  of  belts.  I  saw  the  Smith  Co. 
gorging  up  cheap  bags  and  French  bags  and  American  bags 
and  expensive  bags.  There  was  Mr.  Nibs,  waving  Notatal 


silk  in  my  face,  and  the  knitter,  hiding  his  eyes  from  Brooks 
sweaters.  The  Marshall  Field  Co.  was  making  little  piles  of 
old  samples  to  copy.  Mr.  Postman  was  trying  to  escape  from 
an  avalanche  of  back-buttoned  gloves. 

They  were  all  screaming  something  at  me.  Slowly  words 
disentangled  themselves: 


Then  Mary  Lewis  looked  up  at  me  from  behind  her  desk, 
"Ford  makes  all  his  money  on  Fords,  not  Lincolns,"  said 
Mary  Lewis,  quietly. 

Ray  Kraemer  bounded  up  beside  her,  with  a  little 
printed  placard  which  read,  "I  would  not  take  Bergdorf 
Goodman  for  a  gift.  The  way  to  make  money  in  this  town  is 
to  manufacture  $3.75s." 


Qst's   Q)pinac& 

A  LARGE  part  of  the  laughing  one  did  at  the  old  Charlie 
Chaplin  with  the  funny  shoes  was  to  avoid  crying  over 
his  too  human  predicaments.  Perhaps  it  is  the  same  instinct 
which  makes  me  suggest  that  the  easiest  way  to  get  out  from 
under  Fashion  is  to  laugh  him  off. 


He  is  only  a  little  man  with  green  gloves  who  does  things 
up  in  cellophane  wrappers.  The  mere  idea  that  he  had  the 
nerve  to  suggest  "all  beautiful  clothes  change  regularly 
every  six  months"  is  enough  to  put  him  in  his  place.  He's  had 
his  day  and  practiced  his  little  jokes  long  enough. 

I  could  cry  over  the  plight  of  the  American  manufac- 
turer of  women's  clothes  and  accessories — if  there  weren't 
something  slightly  funny  in  watching  them  chase  their  own 
tails,  done  up  neatly  and  gasping  for  breath  in  Fashion's 
bright  cellophane. 

Apparently  they  can't  even  see,  through  the  wrapper, 
that  economics  today  demands  that  all  manufacturers  es- 
tablish some  sort  of  monopoly  or  continue  to  go  'round  and 
'round  on  the  competitive  merry-go-round.  Year  after  year 
they  stretch  up  their  hands  to  catch  the  gold  ring,  miss  it, 
fail,  start  over  again. 

There  are  too  many  taxis  on  the  streets  of  New  York,  so 
none  of  the  drivers  make  money.  There  are  too  many  people 
making  hats,  so  some  of  them  make  no  money.  There  are,  as 
you  may  know,  too  many  people  manufacturing  bags,  and 
gloves,  and  dresses,  so  most  of  them  don't  make  any  money 
except  by  cutting  corners,  covering  bad  quality  with  more  of 
Fashion's  cellophane. 

It  is  hard,  very  hard  for  the  manufacturer  in  the  women's 
field  to  establish  a  monopoly.  A  few  of  them  may  succeed  by 
ignoring  Fashion  completely  and  steadfastly  continuing  to 
make  certain  classic  things,  like  Brooks  Brothers'  sweaters. 

For  the  rest,  we  may  hope  that  when  the  designers  of  a 
machine  age  grow  up,  they  will  help.  It  seems  to  me  that  one 
day  the  manufacturers  will  realize  that  their  businesses 
would  be  on  much  more  solid  ground  if,  instead  of  going  in 
for  one  big  free-for-all  competition  on  price  year  in  and 
year  out,  they  would  get  something  of  their  very  own  to  sell. 


They  would  have,  of  course,  to  shed  the  French  Legend 
which  leads  them  up  back  alleys.  They  would  have  to  realize 
that  they  are  producing  things  in  masses  for  the  mass  of  the 
American  people.  They  would  be  forced  to  find  out  not  what 
their  competitors  were  doing  so  much  as  what  some  portion 
of  the  public  wants. 

The  individual  manufacturer  would  then  be  in  a  position 
to  stand  on  his  feet  and  say,  "Here  it  is,  in  a  good  quality  at 
a  fair  price.  It's  something  you  want  and  need.  Buy  it  be- 
cause it's  right  .  .  .  not  because  it's  green  or  blue,  not  be- 
cause Patou  showed  it  last  month,  not  because  everyone  in 
New  York  is  wearing  it,  not  because  Vogue  tells  you  it's 
chic.  Buy  it  because  you'll  wear  it  with  pleasure  for  several 

That  will  take  designers,  well-trained  designers  who  un- 
derstand about  machines  and  who  know  what's  going  on  in 
the  lives  of  the  people.  Of  course,  there  won't  be  enough 
good  designers  to  go  around  for  all  the  thousands  of  clothing 
and  accessory  manufacturers  in  the  women's  field. 

But  I  just  toss  the  idea  off  the  top  of  my  head  to  some 
brain  trust:  Why  not  make  all  those  manufacturers  try  to  get 
real  designers?  Wouldn't  that  be  a  handy  way  of  cutting  out 
all  those  unprofitable  marginal  businesses? 

What  if  the  brain  trust  continued  its  work  and  tore  down 
all  Fashion's  slogans?  "All  beautiful  clothes  are  designed  in 
the  houses  of  the  French  couturiers  and  all  women  want 
them" — "Beautiful  clothes  change  regularly  every  six 
months" — "All  American  women  can  have  beautiful 

What  would  become  of  all  the  fashion  writers  if  things 
didn't  change  every  few  months?  They  could  relax  and  write 
about  what  pleased  their  fancy,  things  the  public  might  well 
be  told,  what  kind  of  velvet  really  wears,  how  much  the  life 


of  a  chic  European  has  to  do  with  the  girls  who  push  type- 
writers all  day  every  day,  how  perfectly  awful  some  of  those 
girls  look  in  their  satin  dresses  at  nine  A.M. 

The  department  stores  could  institute  want  slips,  even 
for  the  public  to  fill  out!  They  could  stock  good  stable  mer- 
chandise and  hold  it  until  it  was  cleared  out  two  years  later. 
They  wouldn't  have  to  worry  about  changing  fashion,  be- 
cause there  wouldn't  be  any  fashion,  just  style.  And  style 
only  changes  every  seven  years  or  so. 

Each  department  store  could  concentrate  on  what  por- 
tion of  the  public  it  was  going  to  cater  to  and  in  how  many 
fields.  The  stores  which  couldn't  make  up  their  minds  would 
just  go  out  of  business  and  that  would  be  a  big  relief. 

Mrs.  Jones  would  soon  learn  that  at  a  certain  store  she 
was  going  to  find  the  type  of  very  un-trimmed  clothes  she 
liked  and  at  a  price  she  could  afford.  Mrs.  Smith  would  go 
to  some  other  store  for  her  ruffles. 

After  all,  the  butt  of  Fashion's  dirtiest  jokes  is  the  public. 
The  present  American  boast,  that  all  women  can  be  beauti- 
fully dressed  if  they  choose,  has  been  so  clearly  stated  in  so 
many  ways  for  so  long  a  time,  that  a  large  number  of  Ameri- 
can women  believe  themselves  to  be  beautifully  dressed  who 
are  actually  horrors  to  behold. 

Take  those  $10.75  copies  of  the  dresses  worn  by  the 
Duchess  of  Windsor  in  the  summer  of  1937.  You  could  tell 
by  the  look  on  the  faces  of  the  American  girls  who  wore  them 
that  they  really  felt  beguiling  enough  to  snatch  off  a  Duke 
because  they  had  a  modified  silhouette  corresponding  to  that 
of  a  Duchess.  The  actual  dress,  stinted  on  material,  cheaply 
imitated  as  to  print  design,  bad  in  color  and  ill-fitting,  was  a 
horror  to  behold. 

You  may  say,  if  the  girl  feels  like  a  Duchess,  what  more 
do  you  ask?  I  say,  she  looks  to  me  like  the  worst  mass-pro- 


duced  imitation  of  a  Duchess  I  can  imagine,  and  it  just  isn't 

In  their  franker  moments,  the  fashion  promoters  are 
quite  apt  to  candidly  admit  that  many  American  clothes  are 
not  beautiful  at  all  but  really  awful.  Upon  asking  the  manu- 
facturer, fashion  writer,  retail  promoter  or  buyer,  who  is  re- 
sponsible, the  answer  comes  back  fast  enough.  Either  "The 
public  is  fickle.  It  doesn't  know  what  it  wants,"  or,  "The 
public  gets  what  it  wants.  The  public  has  bad  taste." 

Fashion  has  taught  his  promoters  how  to  pass  the  buck. 
Quite  a  lot  of  the  public  has  good  taste  and  cannot  get  what 
it  wants.  If  the  rest  of  the  American  public  continues  to  have 
bad  taste,  I  can  scarcely  see  that  it  is  their  fault.  The  public 
taste  in  clothes  is  formed  by  what  it  is  exposed  to. 

If  it  is  candidly  admitted  by  fashion  experts  that  the 
American  public  is  exposed  to  a  great  many  perfectly  horrid 
clothes,  why  does  this  happen?  How  does  it  happen? 

To  my  mind  the  responsibility  lies  not  with  the  public, 
but  with  all  the  branches  of  the  fashion  world.  And,  after 
observing  the  whole  works  for  nine  years,  I  can't  see  that 
most  people  are  having  any  fun  in  the  present  set-up. 

The  general  public  is  worried  all  the  time  because  it 
either  can't  get  what  it  wants  or  can't  afford  what  it  wants  or 
doesn't  know  what  it  wants.  And  the  fashion  world  is  wor- 
ried all  the  time  either  because  it  doesn't  know  what  the  pub- 
lic wants  or  can't  make  the  public  buy  what  it  should  want 
or  is  having  to  go  into  bankruptcy  and  start  all  over. 

About  the  only  women  who  are  having  any  fun  dressing 
themselves  are  those  who  can  afford  couturiere  prices  and 
so  get  just  what  they  want.  Even  some  of  them  are  unhappy 
because  they  are  obsessed  with  the  idea  that  they  should  be 
fashionable  instead  of  just  going  their  own  way  and  being  as 
stylish  as  the  Queen  Mother. 


In  any  event,  we  couturieres  may  do  our  best  to  save  our 
customers  from  the  wiles  of  Fashion,  from  the  latest  French 
model,  the  newest  imitation  silk,  the  dress  that  is  here  today 
and  gone  tomorrow.  With  prosperity,  we  may  flourish.  With 
the  next  depression,  we  may  die. 

We  have  very  little  to  do  with  life  in  America.  We  can 
only  dress  our  few.  We,  at  the  moment,  are  in  the  same  rela- 
tion to  life  as  the  French  couture,  which  has  proven  to  be  a 
great  American  press  stunt,  in  relation  to  mass  production. 

But  whatever  relation  I,  Elizabeth  Hawes  the  couturiere, 
bear  to  life  in  America,  I  am  really  quite  a  happy  girl.  I  at- 
tribute it  all  to  the  fact  that,  although  I  am  engaged  in  the 
clothing  business  in  America,  where  legends  still  flourish, 
where  the  public  worries  over  whether  its  skirt  is  the  pre- 
scribed length,  and  the  manufacturer  worries  about  how  full 
the  skirt  is  to  be,  where  Fashion  is  God,  I  have  fun  because 
I  am  in  business  for  my  health,  and  what  is  more,  I  say: 


I  know  that  some  members  of  my  trade  agree  with  me 
and  perhaps  ultimately  a  majority  of  them  may  arrive  at 
some  such  conclusion.  Fashion  may  perish  one  day  at  the 
hands  of  its  creators  and  promoters.  If  it  doesn't  pass  out  of 
existence  in  that  way,  I  have  a  very  firm  belief  something  else 
will  transpire. 

The  American  woman  has  been  laboring  under  an  excess 
of  fashion  for  only  a  few  decades.  By  and  large  she  has 
shown  herself  able  to  cope  with  the  exigencies  of  life  as  the 
need  has  arisen.  When  she  felt  the  time  had  come  to  vote,  she 
saw  to  it  that  she  was  permitted. 

Eventually  she  will  look  inside  Fashion's  bright  cello- 
phane wrapper  before  she  buys  the  contents.  She  will  seri- 


ously  consider  the  quality  and  the  usefulness  of  the  very 
newest  thing,  the  epitome  of  all  chic,  the  height  of  all 
glamor.  She  will  settle  comfortably  back  in  an  old  sweater 
and  skirt  and  idly  remark  to  ninety  percent  of  what  she 


continued  from  front  flap 

on  dress  markups,  and  Miss  Hawes'  colleagues  in  trade 
are  reported  to  be  running  up  a  little  gold  lame  rope 
suitable  for  lynching  purposes." 

—  Lucius  BEEBE,  columnist 

"A  book  of  real  interest  for  every  woman  who  buys 
clothes  and  every  man  who  pays  for  them." 

—  THERESA  HELBURN,  director,  Theatre  Guild 

"Any  artist  will  rouse  to  Hawes'  battle  cry.  I  hate  pla- 
giarism no  matter  where  it   exists,  pirating  designs  or 
anything  else.  Hawes  has  said  something  for  all  of  us." 
—  MCCLELLAND  BARCLAY,  illustrator 











Elizabeth  Hawes 

Born  in  Ridgewood,  N.  J. 

At  the  age  of  nine  sewed  her  own  clothes. 

At  the  age  of  twelve  did  her  first  professional 
dressmaking  for  a  small  shop. 

Entered  Vassar.  Liked  economics.  Outside  of 
that,  concentrated  on  clothes.  At  the  end  of  the 
second  year  at  Vassar  went  to  Parsons  School 
for  Applied  Arts. 

Summer  as  apprentice  at  Bergdorf  Goodman. 

Graduated  from  Vassar  and  went  to  Paris  to 
learn  clothes  designing. 

Became  sketcher  for  prominent  wholesaler  and 
fashion  reporter  for  the  New  Yorker. 

Became  Paris  stylist  for  R.  H.  Macy. 
Later  —  Became  stylist  for  Lord  &  Taylor. 

April  —  Called  at  Paris  Vogue  office  under 
Main  Bocher. 

May — Took  job  as  designer  for  Madame  Groult. 

October  —  Opened  shop  in  New  York  on  56th 

First  American  designer  to  have  an  exhibition 
in  Paris. 

Went  into  designing  of  accessories  for  whole- 
sale manufacturer,  in  addition  to  56th  Street 

Hawes,  Inc.,  moved  to  present  quarters  at  21 
East  67th  Street. 

Invited  to  Russia  to  exhibit  her  clothes! 

First  showing  of  Hawes'  new  designs  for  men's 

Fashion  Is  Spinach  published. 
Jacket  design  by  Alexey  Brodovitch